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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Virginia Blog Carnival Is Up

The latest installment of the Virginia Blog Carnival is up over at Below The Beltway. Check it out.

Virginia Surely Does Have a Budget Crisis

Real hourly earnings, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.5% in 2005 compared to 2004.

Weekly earnings as well fell by 0.4% between December 2004 and December 2005. (link)

Americans' personal savings rate in December 2005 was a negative 0.7%. (link)

All that being understood, check out the spending increases in the proposed 2006 - 2008 Virginia state budget (found here in Powerpoint).
  • K-12 Education spending to increase 19%
  • Higher Education funding to increase more than 20%
  • Health Care funding up 18%
  • Mental Health funding up 24%
  • Public Safety funding to increase 15%

And check out the increases in overall appropriations for operating expenses from 1998 to 2008. They've gone from $17.6 billion to $35.2 billion.

The bottom line? Put simply, the state government is confiscating more and more of the money that - in real terms - you have less and less of.

And Governor Kaine, declaring the state of Virginia to be in crisis, demands more revenue.

The state has a crisis all right - a crisis in leadership. A crisis in stewardship. A crisis in government accountability to the voters (whose wages are on the decline) who charged them with properly managing the Commonwealth's budget expenditures but are witnessing unconscionable spending increases, the likes of which the Old Dominion has never witnessed in its entire history.

Say No To More Toll Roads

Have you been on Route 895 lately? It's the scenic bypass around Richmond. Why scenic? Because, at any given time of day, you are virtually alone and can drive at your leisure on your journey from the southside to the eastside. With I-64 jammed much of each day and I-95 in complete chaos always, 895 has very light traffic. Why?

Because some genius decided to make it a toll road.

It's not the Jersey Turnpike, of course. It'll only cost you $2.00 to get from the south to east. It has more to do with the fact that the state erected road blocks on the interstate highway - we once called them expressways for a reason - at which you have to stop and go through the ritual of handing an attendant 2 bucks to ride the road for fifteen minutes.

Now the state transportation department wants to put roadblocks (toll booths) up on I-81 - to (this is laughable) alleviate congestion. And the Roanoke Times is having no part of it:
I-81 study railroads the case for tolls

VDOT gave select politicians what they wanted, a study that favors tolling I-81. Now the people can say that is not what they want.

The Virginia Department of Transportation will hold public hearings this week on improvements along the Interstate 81 corridor. Transportation officials hope the outcome will allow them to narrow the options and turn Western Virginia's main freeway into a toll road.

The public should stop them. VDOT has failed to demonstrate that the best way to improve safety and alleviate truck-heavy congestion is to turn I-81 over to a private company. (link)
The simple solution to the problem of congestion is to widen the road. To add lanes from Staunton to Wytheville. Of course the Times will have nothing to do with that either. Something about ruining the famously scenic views. They want more trains.

In any case, converting expressways into congestion-creating toll roads (drive the Tri-State Tollway around Chicago once) is a bad idea. The entire civilized world learned that over the last 30 years. It's time our politicians and the Department of Transportation learned the lesson as well.

If The Okies Can Do It ...

We here in Virginia are at the mercy of politicians who, for the most part, believe we should raise taxes - again. This despite the fact that we have accumulated - just since the last tax increase - a surplus of $1.4 billion. To many of us, including the Republicans in the House of Delegates, this is madness and is uncalled-for.

I hereby ask all those legislators - mostly Democrats - who believe theirs is the only course of action considering all the spending plans they have, to look to their brethren in Oklahoma for a possible alternative.

From The Wall Street Journal this morning:
Sooner Supply-Siders

Democrats in Washington seem to go into cardiac arrest at the mere thought of cutting taxes, but in certain state capitals Democratic lawmakers are catching on to the economic growth and job creation dynamics of lowering tax rates.

We recently praised Democrats in Rhode Island for their proposal to cut marginal income-tax rates to help bring businesses back to their struggling state. Now, halfway across the country, Democrats in the Oklahoma legislature have embraced a 20% cut in income-tax rates.

Thanks to the energy-price boom, this oil patch state has experienced a revenue gusher of late -- with a budget surplus estimated at $600 million this year. Republicans in charge of the state house of representatives responded with a proposal to cut the state's personal income tax to 5.85% from 6.25%. Not to be outdone, Democrats who control the state senate have passed a further reduction in the income tax -- to a top marginal rate of 4.9%. The politicos and media in Oklahoma City are reeling in disbelief. (link)
Watch Oklahoma's economy grow. And the state tax revenue coffers fill to overflowing. How?

Reduce the tax rate → Stimulate growth → More tax dollars → (The Roads get repaired).

Simple. Yes?

I'm Famous Where?

I wake up this morning, stumble into the den with a cup of coffee, fire up the computer, check to see about the traffic that the weblog generated yesterday, and ... found out I'm being read in Mumbai.

What?

Where?

After a 30 second google search, I came to realize that Mumbai is what Bombay, India is now called (if memory serves, the British colonial name was changed because, well, it was British and the Indians still hate the British for what the latter did in the days of the Raj).

It's odd to see one of my weblog postings featured in a newspaper (Mumbai News) half way around the world. But such is life on this planet today. Welcome to the internet.

To all of my new friends in Mumbai: Namaste. Aap kaise ho? Shukriya.

And if you see my good friend, Nagabushanam Jasti, tell him to write. (Hey, it could happen. India only has 1.1 billion people).

For those of you who are interested, here's the link:

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/nmirror/mmpaper.asp?sectid=14&articleid=49200622315275049200622301931

My guess is the link won't be good for long.

The world gets smaller every day.

Update April 10 5:33pm: As I expected, the link wasn't good for long. My fifteen minutes of fame (in India) lasted ... well, about 15 minutes.