Monthly Archives: February 2011

We Can’t Cut Our Way Out

There’s a sense in the air that the answer to our problems, be it economy, deficit or schools, is to cut, cut, cut. Cut salaries, cut benefits, cut programs. On the surface, the logic of cutting makes some kind of sense. There are deficits at the Federal and State level (no, Virginia’s budget is not in balance if you fail to make payments into the state retirement fund), and spending less is one of the common prescriptions for closing deficits.

The dirty truth, however, is that no long-term government deficit has ever been solved simply by cutting the budget. Budget cuts are net drags on an economy, and a shrinking economy exacerbates budget problems by yielding shrinking revenues for the government, which makes deficits worse, which creates incentives for more cuts, which further drag the economy… It’s a vicious, downward cycle that leads to malaise and bankruptcy.

The fact is that the only thing that has ever truly balanced a major government budget is economic growth. That’s it. All other supposed “answers” are simply second-order results of robust economic growth. So, if you are truly in favor of balanced budgets, you must be in favor of policies that encourage economic growth.

Ah, but there’s a catch. The type of growth matters. If you look at the history of balanced Federal budgets, they came near the middle and end of periods of economic growth in which the bottom 50% of households saw their incomes rise and fortunes improve.

Follow below the fold for a short, and by no means complete, historical survey of balanced budgets. Continue reading

Sen. Herring On The Assembly Session

This week’s video update from Sen. Herring does a good job explaining how the legislative process works in Richmond, given the Assembly’s short session. For example, the Senator discusses how the Senate’s budget provides more funding for education, healthcare and public safety than the House of Delegates’ budget.

Our Senator, hard at work for us in Richmond Continue reading

Free Tax Preparation from Loudoun County

Did you know that Loudoun County provides free help preparing taxes for families making less than $49,000/year?

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Program) offers free tax services for individuals and families in Loudoun County earning $49,000 or less. Walk-ins are welcome for one-on-one assistance. Two locations are available in Leesburg:

* Loudoun County Workforce Resource Center, 102 Heritage Way N.E., Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
* Rust Library, 380 Old Waterford Road, Mondays & Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

AARP offers free tax preparation services at two locations in Sterling:

* Cascades Library, 21030 Whitfield Place, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Wednesdays, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
* Falcons Landing, Algonkian Parkway & Potomac View Road, Monday, Thursday & Saturday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Customers must call for appointment, 703-404-5216.

Services are provided by trained and certified volunteers who will complete accurate and secure returns for both individuals and families. Families earning up to $57,000 who would like to complete their own taxes may go to: www.myfreetaxes.com/metrodc. Tax preparation at either a VITA or AARP site or at a free online site is fast, easy, safe and secure. For a list of additional sites in Northern Virginia visit www.nvacash.org. – Loudoun.gov

What a great program!

The Number Of Supervisors

Leesburg Today is reporting that the change in the population count for Loudoun County has thrown the debate about Magisterial (Supervisor) Redistricting into flux.

With Loudoun’s population set at 312,311, an increase of 84.1 percent of its population in the 2000 Census, the county has a population 22,036 higher than anticipated, which changes the sizes and potential boundaries for all eight districts and leaves supervisors with a lot more work to do.

When county staff members were anticipating a population slightly more than 290,000, each election district had a population threshold of just over 36,000. With the actual population topping 312,000, target population for new election districts has increased to 39,039, with wiggle room of plus or minus 5 percent of that number permitted.

The largest discrepancy between staff estimates and the actual population came, as might be expected, in the fast growing Dulles District. Estimated at 71,192, the actual population of the county’s highest growing area is 81,409. On the flip side, the Blue Ridge District’s actual population is 228 people less than the staff estimate. – Leesburg Today

An excellent, and extended, debate over Redistricting has been going on at Supervisor Miller’s blog, Without Supervision. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of potential District lines and census blocks, head over there and join the discussion.

I want to take a moment, however, to address a proposal which had previously been discarded, but is now perhaps back on the table thanks to the population results: Reducing the number of Supervisors.

It was Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) who tossed the biggest wrench into the conversation of redistricting Monday, however. Noting that four of the nine supervisors had announced they would not seek reelection to the board and the board’s interest in keeping “communities of interest” together, Burton asked supervisors to reconsider the number of districts. When the board first began considering the redistricting process supervisors rejected the idea of either reducing or increasing the number of election districts from eight and one at-large seat for the chairman.

“I propose we look seriously at establishing six districts instead of eight. That would put each district at about 52,000. That would create one western district west of Rt. 15. Leesburg would have to extend outside of the town significantly. And it would leave four districts for central and eastern Loudoun,” he said. “It would make it easier to keep communities of interest together. The problems we have agreeing on boundaries and that four [supervisors] who are not coming back, I think that opens up the discussion.” – Leesburg Today

Reducing the number of Supervisors is a terrible idea. Follow below the fold for four reasons why. Continue reading

Women Reporters

I admit being a tiny bit closer to the story about Lara Logan than some others might be. A friend from New York works for CBS news, and through her, I’ve been following the story of another CBS reporter, blown up in Afghanistan. Today’s news about Lara Logan’s assault while reporting in Egypt made me take pause.

If it hasn’t been said, let me say thank you to all of the reporters, but perhaps especially the female reporters, who go into the field to bring important stories home to those of us comfortable in our living rooms. These journalists willingly put themselves in harm’s way, often in a culture hostile to the very idea of women with jobs in the news, and they do so simply to bring us stories that would otherwise go missed. And too often in today’s world, the stories they bring home go missed anyway.

So today, I’m taking a moment to give thanks for Lara Logan, Cami McCormick and all the reporters who literally put themselves on the line for three minutes of airtime on low-rated news shows in an attempt to get America to notice things going on around the world.

Thank you.

(Crossposted from Leesburg Tomorrow.)

The Bay Act Is Zoning

Over the past few months, the debate over the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) has been lively and extensive, throughout Loudoun. A discussion with a lot of questions, and fewer answers, as of last Fall has now resulted in a lot more clarity about what is at stake, what is involved, and who is impacted.

I’ve watched this discussion with interest, as it is my kids who I hope will be able to enjoy crab from the Bay in 15 years, and that’s one of the things the CBPO is aimed at ensuring. In watching, discussing and reading over the past five months, I have come to a conclusion about the CPBO.

The CBPO is nothing more than zoning.

This firefight is more of a proxy battle over philosophies of local zoning than a real debate over the merits of protecting the Bay. In fact, our willigness and ability to protect the Bay is not at question at all, but rather has become victim to long-standing opposition to some basic ideas about economic development.

Follow below the fold for my reasoning. Continue reading

Links We’re Reading – January 27 – February 4, 2011

Is there a link between the color of your skin and your relative media coverage?

There are a lot of possible explanations for the lack of coverage, not the least of which have to do with personnel and funding constraints. News organizations spread thin, attempting to cover two wars and international uprisings. But more cynical critics point to questions of race — white alleged killers and brown victims — or the media narrative of the Minutemen as merely a well-intentioned “neighborhood watch” group.

The Latest On Transportation From Richmond

Senator Herring has been providing weekly updates from Richmond on this year’s session. Below, he does a good job explaining the current state of play on transportation, from the large budget issues involved to the specific projects and initiatives he’s working on.

This morning, Sen. Herring announced his support for the transportation compromise that Gov. McDonnell is working on. That support was the result of the inclusion of Sen. Herring’s priorities in the bill.

“As the Governor has repeatedly acknowledged, this plan is a first step in addressing Virginia’s long-term transportation infrastructure needs.  All of the experts, including the Governor himself, are in agreement: Virginia needs over $1 billion dollars per year to adequately meet those needs,” Herring said.  ”While I do have concerns about relying on borrowed money, Virginia does have significant short term needs that these funds can immediately address.”

“Among those are Loudoun County’s top transportation infrastructure projects,” Herring said.  ”Through my efforts and the efforts of County officials, my Route 7 Task Force, and the business community, I am pleased that Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton has pledged that the state will fully fund the construction of the Route 7/Belmont Ridge Road interchange and the Sycolin Road flyover in Leesburg, [Emphasis mine -P13] if the package passes the General Assembly.  The Governor’s bond package will also include state funding for several other projects of great importance to eastern Loudoun and western Fairfax County.”

In addition, Senator Herring’s legislation, SB 1329, to amend the state’s highway “revenue sharing” program with localities to make more state matching funds available to localities that wish to undertake their own road construction projects, was merged into the Governor’s transportation bill, SB 1446, making Senator Herring a chief co-patron of the legislation. – Sen. Mark Herring

I am personally skeptical of using bonds and borrowing to pay for immediate, short-term needs. We badly need real transportation funding reform. However, I acknowledge that it is easy for me to preach the gospel of reforming funding sources from behind my keyboard on a blog. I’m not a serving state Senator.

It is inarguable that we have real needs for the Sycolin Flyover and Belmont Ridge interchange, today. Sen. Herring worked hard on behalf of his constituents to see those projects made priorities by the state. He is delivering on his community’s needs.

“Throughout this process, I pledged to keep an open mind and work constructively with the Governor and his administration. As the Governor himself is fond of saying, ‘There are no Republican or Democratic roads,’ and I could not agree more,” Herring continued.  ”Our constituents expect us to come down to Richmond and to work together, members of both parties in both houses, to find solutions to our most pressing issues, and transportation is certainly at the top of that list.” – Sen. Herring

I defer to the Senator’s judgment on the long-term wisdom of the borrow-and-build plan, as he knows much more about such things than I do. I trust that Senator Herring will make solving the revenue side of the transportation problem a priority in the months and years ahead.

R & D Tax Credits Bill Passes the Senate

From Senator Mark Herring’s Twitter page today:

SB 1326 creating an ‘R&D’ Tax Credit in Virginia passed the Senate 38-1.

This is good news for getting jobs created in Virginia. Companies that invest in R & D now have incentives to hire more people to help with that R & D, and they can do so starting next year.

Here’s hoping that the near-unanimous Senate vote carries over to the House of Delegates with similar support, since the Governor supports it as well.

The text of SB 1326:

Income tax; research and development expenses tax credit. Allows income tax credits for individuals and businesses for qualified research and development expenses for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2012, but before January 1, 2017. The tax credit amounts are (i) 15% of the Virginia qualified research and development expenses, or (ii) 20% of the Virginia qualified research and development expenses, if the research was conducted in conjunction with a Virginia public college and university. The Tax Department shall develop policies and procedures for the application process for the tax credits. There is a $10 million cap on the total amount of credits allowed in any taxable year.

Sen. Herring noted SB 1326 on his webpage:

Among the highlights of Senator Herring’s legislative package is SB 1326, which creates a Research and Development Tax Credit in Virginia.  This legislation is the top priority of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Virginia Biotechnology Association, with whom Senator Herring has worked closely in the past, including last year on the passage of the Virginia Innovation Investment Act.  For his efforts to promote science and technology based economic development, Senator Herring was named “Legislator of the Year” in 2010 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

This legislation was also included among Governor Bob McDonnell’s “Opportunity at Work” legislative proposals.  The Governor thanked Senator Herring for carrying this legislation during his State of the Commonwealth address delivered this past Wednesday.

More reason why Mark Herring is working hard for Virginia (and Loudoun County) individuals and families. We should all workk hard to re-elect him in November.