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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Roanoke Times Baldly Disingenuous

It's not often I accuse anyone connected with journalism - or more to the point, with newspaper editorials - to be disingenuous. Especially at the Roanoke Times. I view the people working there - at least until today - as being shallow. Simple. Bush league. Neanderthal. But not disingenuous.

But today the editorial staff at the Roanoke Times moved into new territory with this:

A budget surplus that really isn't

News that Virginia ended its fiscal year with $544 million left over [my emphasis] drew predictable responses from Jerry Kilgore and Morgan Griffith. And, just as predictably when the state's finances are the topic, their responses were wrong. (
$544 million "left over." I quickly began to smell a rat - or something just as malodorous - when I read those weasel words. The term the rest of the world uses for money a government has left over after all obligations are met is a surplus. But the Times editorialists can't use the suitable term; it would defeat their argument. So they contort the truth.

But if the money not spent (or "left over"), a portion of which was intended for my grandchildren's college education had the state of Virginia not decided to confiscate it, has a designated purpose, what is it?

All - yes, all - of the supposed $544 million surplus is already spoken for. The state's rainy-day fund, drained by recession and the poor fiscal management of previous governors, gets $437 million, finally restoring it to full health. That's what wise fiscal stewards do: put money aside when times are flush so they'll have it when times are hard.
Now it's my turn to massage terminology. I do it for the sake of clarification though, not obfuscation.

The "rainy-day fund" is an account set up to store - for future use - tax revenue surpluses. It is fed tax dollars that are not earmarked for expenditure. It is intended to warehouse your hard-earned income until a use can be found for it. It is a surplus fund.

In the corporate sector, we refer to this as net income (revenue less expenses).

Some call it profit.

On a personal level, we call this having money left over to put toward a college fund for our grandchildren because we were able to meet our ongoing obligations when it came to food, shelter, and clothing.

The people at the Times know this full well. They simply wish to couch the fact that the state government made a profit off the backs of the hard working people of the commonwealth in officialese by calling that profit a rainy-day fund. They could just as readily have called it the " sequestered until we can figure out how to waste it" fund.

The Roanoke Times' intentional and blatant misrepresentation of this fact is despicable. Shame on them.