The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Crisis in Virginia Leadership

The Virginia General Assembly Paralyzed

Uncertainty and Fear Looms Across Commonwealth

Party Season in Richmond Continues

Just what gives with our fine ladies and gentlemen of the Virginia General Assembly?

Over the past month, I promised myself that I would not get involved or take sides in this deepening crisis with the Virginia General Assembly and its struggles to pass a budget and to somehow get a handle on the enormous transportation challenges facing the Commonwealth.

It is a big job. It is a complicated job. These people who represent us in the Virginia General Assembly are big boys and girls and I figured that they deserved a pass from the Iconoclast while they did their important work. So what if it takes a few extra days or even a few extra weeks?

But seriously, this is getting ridiculous.

According to this morning’s Richmond Times Dispatch, the Virginia General Assembly already deep into overtime, today ties the worlds record for overtime, set by that same esteemed body in 2004, in a similarly embarrassing, costly and harmful state of institutional paralysis, that lasted for 115 days.

There are many other pundits who are far more knowledgeable (and interested) in the matters of state budgeting and the Virginia transportation crisis than I am, but I will nonetheless offer a few observations.

The way I understand it, this growing mess in Richmond is a war of wills between the House of Delegates which is dominated by the “anti-tax” faction, and the Senate, which is…well…also conservative but at least somewhat in touch with the fundamental reality that something must be done to ensure the continuation of essential programs and services.

Recently, the Senate has been toying with the idea of giving special local taxing powers to Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and the Shenandoah Valley to address their own transportation needs. It seems to me that this idea might actually have some merit: The more we can keep tax dollars away from the Virginia General Assembly and in the hands of local decision makers, the better!

At least the local governments can pass their budgets on time. Also, think of all the money that could be saved by avoiding the administrative costs of having the tax dollars go from the local taxpayers’ pockets, to Richmond, to the colossal state bureaucracy, and then…only after a good bit of overhead cost is subtracted… back to address local needs. Why send the tax dollars to Richmond in the first place? Keep local dollars local and close to the people who actually pay the taxes.

One downside of this idea is that the rest of the Commonwealth, all areas outside of Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the Shenandoah Valley are still left to the mercy of the General Assembly. Mmmm… That doesn’t sound too fair for the rest of us.

Concerning the House of Delegates, their claim to fame is their hard-line “anti-tax” position. This is an extremely popular concept in the eyes of most voters…especially those who still believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Who really wants to pay more taxes? When is the last time that we can recall any “pro-tax” candidates being elected to any office? Answer: It just doesn’t happen…never…no way!

At best, most moderately rational citizens begrudgingly understand that there are costs associated with living in a civilized society. Taxes are a necessary evil that members of society must contribute so that our society can collectively enjoy security and many important services that help make us civilized…education, health care, roads, care for the needy, etc.

The problem with the House of Delegates is that they seem to be getting the reputation of being an old dog with only one trick that being hard line opposition to taxes.

So, how does the House of Delegates propose to deal with the pressing challenges of transportation, education, health care and human services? Answer: A lot of mumbling and hem hawing about “new efficiencies” in government, blah, blah, blah. Somehow, good government services and programs should just happen without having to worry about how they get paid for.

All the while, these same ladies and gentlemen in the House of Delegates continue year after year putting in for their favorite “pork” deals to be paid for out of… you guessed it… public funds. To be fair, I hasten to add that the Senators get their fair share of pork too. Unfortunately pork and politics go hand in hand.

In the end, the scary thing about having our Delegates and Senators hanging around Richmond for 115 days, is that it just gives them more time to do more damage and give out more pork. Think of the extended social calendar, all the dinners, cocktail parties, receptions, most sponsored by lobbyist, all with one hand slapping the backs of their favorite lawmakers and the other hand out for new pet pork initiatives.

One final thought: During the last election cycle for members of the Virginia General Assembly, I seem to recall an alarming number of unchallenged incumbents… in other words, no choices for the voters. That is a real shame, because as present circumstances clearly illustrate, we need choices and we need real solutions to the difficult problems facing the Commonwealth.

Perhaps tomorrow or the next day, the good Senators and Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly will come to their collective senses and get the work done so that they can go home and we can stop worrying about how much this lack of leadership is costing us. Maybe they will just get home sick.

But for now, the party season continues in Richmond.

Note: Party scene is from unknown and undated event, but you get the idea.


  • At 5/05/2006 10:58 PM, Blogger Vivian J. Paige said…

    It's my understanding that it is not the entire House of Delegates that is holding this up, but rather the Republicans in the House.

  • At 5/06/2006 7:11 AM, Anonymous will vaught said…

    Perhaps true. I was trying to not get into the Republican / Democrat thing. Also, to be perfectly fair, not all members of the GA are really all that happy about this situation either. But your observation is well taken.

  • At 5/06/2006 7:54 AM, Blogger The Richmond Democrat said…

    How can we ever change the situation if we don't et into the "Democrat-Republican" thing?

    Republicans are blocking prgress on roads and they should be kicked out next year!

  • At 5/06/2006 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    vivian and j.c.,

    C'mon now, you know that the Republicans have dedicated themselves to the "real" issues that affect Virginians.
    Thanks to them we don't have to worry about gay mexicans having abortions while burning the flag. Oops, my bad, the flag burning ammendment is on the federal agenda.
    Only silly Democrats worry about things like paying the bills and maintaining infrastructure. Republicans are perfectly happy to let things slide into chaos. They set out years ago to prove once and for all that govt can't do anything, and now with them running it (into the ground) they're pounding the point home.

  • At 5/06/2006 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great analysis will, i too get tired of hearing about this story, and take little interest in it. But, it's time for action. Members of the House need to get their heads out their asses, soon.

    Keep up the good work!

  • At 5/07/2006 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Will, has anyone got a good factual assessment on pork abuse by the Virginia General Assembly? Congress seems to get all the bad press about pork abuses, but I know we have got a "mini-pork factory" with our General Assembly. If they would just cut out some of this nonproductive spending, we might be a good many miles ahead on the roads problem.

  • At 5/07/2006 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good question. Maybe some readers can provide some "big picture" assessment of the pork abuse problem.

  • At 5/08/2006 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Whenever the voters let one party have too much power for too long, you can expect to see problems of excess and abuse. This is what we are seeing with the GA at this time.

  • At 5/10/2006 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Regarding the term "pork abuse" are we talking about good benefits from tax dollars spent in someone elses district, or are we talking about dumb and wasteful expenditures of public funds for no good reason other than our legislators don't quite know what they are doing? The former is just sour grapes because we got the goodies and you didn't. But, sometimes "dumb and wasteful" is about the only way to describe it. What can I say "sh## happens."

  • At 5/15/2006 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe the Republicans are supposed to be in charge of both the House and Senate. So what is the problem?


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