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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Somebody's Been Paying Attention

Who is it that's been telling you that there's nothing particularly sacred about Virginia's general fund?

Okay, Barnie Day did, if we're going to get picky and talk in specific terms.

But generally, it's been the lone ranger here at From On High who has been pounding away at the canard being foisted upon an unsuspecting and gullible electorate of late by the Democrats that goes something like this:

The general fund is intended to be used only for "essential services" like education and law enforcement.

(Roads and bridges not being essential to our way of life apparently)

Well, it looks like the Republicans are coming around. And they're finally starting to respond to this fable.

In my email inbox this evening is a news release from the the Speaker's office. It reads, in its entirety:

Commonwealth of Virginia
Virginia House of Delegates
RICHMOND

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 14, 2007

Republican Legislators Detail Virginia’s Long History of Designating General Funds for Transportation
.
-- More Than $2 Billion in General Fund Revenues Allocated to Transportation since 1991 --
-- Route 58 Upgrade Legislation Dedicated One-Third More in General Funds than Current Plan --
-- Republicans Assert “Double Standard” By Democrats in Restricting General Fund Use --

HILLSVILLE, VA – Citing the Commonwealth’s record of dedicating $2.2 billion in General Fund revenues to transportation over the past 16 years, Republican Delegates representing southwest Virginia today challenged the rhetoric of Governor Timothy M. Kaine and General Assembly Democrats who have expressed opposition to House Bill 3202, the Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform Act. The Governor and the majority of General Assembly Democrats have cited the allocation of 0.8% of future General Fund revenues to underwrite $2.5 billion in bonds to improve Virginia’s transportation network as a main reason for their opposition to the plan. The House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved the plan (64-34) and the Senate of Virginia likewise passed it (21-18) on the last day of the 2007 Regular Session. It now is awaiting the Governor’s action by March 26

“Based on their own voting records, some of our Democrat colleagues are being highly selective in their opposition to designating a tiny portion of future General Fund revenues to transportation,” remarked House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem). “When Speaker Philpott and Governor Baliles successfully passed legislation committing 1.2% of future General Fund revenues to transportation for the Route 58 Corridor Development Fund in 1989, they did so with the overwhelming support of Democrat legislators. Now, when lawmakers are working to commit a smaller percentage for this same purpose – just 0.8% – some of these same Democrats are claiming it’s far too much. Clearly, there’s a double standard here, and it would appear the difference is based on the party affiliation of those who crafted this landmark transportation plan.”

When approved by the General Assembly in 1989, the legislation that created the Route 58 Corridor Development Fund set aside $80 million annually from fees raised through the recordation tax, a General Fund revenue source. At that time, the legislation was approved by Democrat majorities in the Virginia House and Senate. Nine Democrats serving in the General Assembly at that time, including then-Delegate and now-Senator W. Roscoe Reynolds (D-Henry) and Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), voted in favor of the legislation that dedicated 1.2% of General Fund revenues to transportation.

“The bill to commit General Fund revenues to transportation to improve Route 58 was important for our region, and has proven successful since it was enacted in 1989,” noted Delegate Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, Sr. (R-Grayson). “With the General Assembly’s strong, bi-partisan passage this year of its transportation plan, we’re applying a concept that is proven and has worked well in one region to the entire state. That just makes sense.”

“Transportation is a core service of state government and our transportation bill will bring real improvements to every corner of the Commonwealth,” declared House Republican Caucus Chairman Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott). “For the Bristol District, the Governor’s signing HB 3202 into law means $120 million in bonds for road-construction projects, and an additional $200 million for Salem District. It also injects an additional $200 million every year to the Highway Maintenance and Operations Fund, and at least $200 million every year into the Transportation Trust Fund. And, it keeps the current transportation funding formulas intact. Anyone claiming that this plan won’t benefit rural or southwest Virginia just isn’t telling the whole story.”

The Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform Act was approved by the Virginia General Assembly on February 24. When fully implemented, the comprehensive compromise plan dedicates at least an additional $1.3 billion in funding for transportation annually.

“This is not the only occasion where Democrat leaders have applied different standards to the application of General Fund dollars to transportation,” noted Delegate Griffith. “Just this session, Senator Reynolds and now-House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) sponsored Senate Bill 857. This legislation would have substantially increased the allocation of General Fund moneys going to transportation for the Route 58 corridor.

“There’s a familiar expression about ‘people in glass houses.’ It looks to me as though the Democrats objection to the use of General Fund revenues for transportation is based on politics and not policy.”

# # #
JUST THE FACTS:

Virginia’s Use of General Funds for Transportation and Transportation Debt Service

● In 1989, the General Assembly approved legislation – with the strong support of then-Speaker A. L. Philpott – that provided $80 million per year in recordation taxes, a General Fund revenue source, for three purposes:

1) The creation of the Route 58 Corridor Development Fund. Under the legislation, $40 million in recordation taxes (General Fund revenues) is deposited annually into the fund to pay for the $704.3 million in bonds issued to finance a portion of construction costs benefiting Southside Virginia.

2) Approximately $20 million per year in General Fund recordation taxes goes to the Northern Virginia Transportation District Fund to pay the debt service on $502.2 million in bonds issued for road projects in the Northern Virginia region.

3) An additional $20 million in General Fund recordation taxes flows back to localities based on deed recording. Localities must use these monies for transportation or public education. The City of Chesapeake uses their General Fund recordation allocation to pay the debt service on $56.2 million in bonds issued by the Department of Transportation for the construction of the Oak Grove Connector.

● Consistent with requirements of the 1989 legislation, the recordation tax revenues (again, General Fund dollars) were first appropriated by the General Assembly and expended by the Governor in the 1990-92 Biennial Budget.

In the 1990-1992 biennium, $80 million was the equivalent of 1.2 percent of the General Fund. By comparison, today the amount of General Funds pledged in House Bill 3202 equates to approximately 0.8 percent (eight-tenths of 1%) of the General Fund, or about one-third less than the percentage committed in 1989 for transportation, with the strong support of a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia.

● The total amount of debt issued using the $80 million in annual General Fund revenues is over $1.2 billion.

● The House of Delegates passed the legislation 83-12, with Delegates Cranwell, Hall, Plum, Melvin, Whitt Clement, Tom Moss, Speaker Philpott and future Senator Reynolds voting “aye.” The Senate passed the legislation 37-3, with Senators Saslaw, Houck, Lambert, Miller and Colgan voting “aye.” The bill was introduced at the request of the Democratic Governor Gerald Baliles.

● Overall, General Fund spending for transportation since FY 1991:

1991 - $ 40,490,207
1992 - $ 26,262,724
1993 - $ 15,324,114
1994 - $ 22,324,114
1995 - $ 40,050,099
1996 - $ 41,754,777
1997 - $ 40,270,099
1998 - $ 45,050,099
1999 - $ 44,475,099
2000 - $ 47,545,418
2001 - $255,584,000
2002 - $ 45,000,000
2003 - $140,604,200
2004 - $ 72,929,586
2005 - $317,439,911
2006 - $185,002,289
2007 - $642,744,067
2008 - $150,844,067

***
It turns out, that sacrosanct general fund has been violated more times than a Richmond streetwalker.
.
So much for infrangibility.

While The Chinese Build In Oklahoma ... *

... we lose another employer here in Southwest Virginia:

Manufacturer to close Alleghany County plant
The plant employs about 145 people and has one of the largest payrolls in Alleghany County.
By Duncan Adams, The Roanoke Times


Alleghany County's struggling economy took another hit when Parker Hannifin Corp. announced it will close its Parker Powertrain plant in Iron Gate by late September. Williams said the closing likely will occur in phases.

The plant employs about 145 people and manufactures seals used in automotive applications.

George "Chip" Snead, interim county administrator for Alleghany County, said the closing will affect both Alleghany County and northern Botetourt County, but especially Alleghany.

"Our economy is struggling and this will not help us," Snead said.

Jim Jaye, a spokesman for Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin, said the corporation is "going to consolidate what we have at the Iron Gate plant with other plants." (link)


A sad day. One of many. Far too many.

* See the news here.

Can a Bailout Be Far Behind?

This is reminiscent of the Savings & Loan debacle of the late 70's:

Congress weighing home-loan actions
By Alan Zibel, The Associated Press


Congress is considering tougher standards for risky, higher-interest home loans made to people with blemished credit records as defaults surge and lenders to the subprime market see their own financing dry up.


Some analysts and executives said lawmakers and regulators missed earlier opportunities to scrutinize the mortgage industry, and they worry that a belated overreaction could make matters worse by choking off funds to the poor and further weakening the housing market.

The [Mortgage Bankers Association] reported that the percentage of payments that were 30 or more days past due for all tracked loans jumped to 4.95 percent in the last three months of 2006. (link)


Here's the rule to follow on this: When Congress gets involved, your tax dollars get involved.

When 1,000 savings and loan institutions collapsed in the 70's and early 80's, the taxpayer ended up paying out $125 billion to clean up the mess created by private institutions.

We're headed down that same path.

Somebody needs to stop this from happening again. Now.

Men Are From Mars, Animal Rights Fanatics Are From Pluto

In a world I don't know, this (appearing in "Pig Out," a New York Times editorial this morning), makes sense:

As a cattle rancher, I am comfortable raising animals for human consumption, but they should not be made to suffer. Because we ask the ultimate sacrifice of these creatures, it is incumbent on us to ensure that they have decent lives. (link)

We raise them to kill them to eat them. And we should treat the critters kindly. So they don't suffer. Before we devour them.

This requires a level of intellect that I admit to not having.

Uh Oh. You've Done It Now.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this life, it is this: When you are confronted by 4 million heavily armed redneck white boys with attitude, you don't want to get on their bad side.

Like Christian Trejbal at the Roanoke Times seems to have now done.

From a National Rifle Association* press release:

Virginia Newspaper Endangers Right-to-Carry Permit Holders!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In the Sunday, March 11 edition of its paper, the Roanoke Times published an article observing the importance of open government and public access. The focus of this particular article was concealed handgun permits and which citizens currently maintain a valid carry permit -- however, the Roanoke Times didn't stop there.


After receiving a database of all concealed carry permittees in Virginia via a Freedom Of Information Act request, the paper provided a searchable database on its website, therefore allowing anyone with criminal intentions to determine exactly who in their community has a permit to carry concealed handgun, as well as the address of every
permittee!

After repeated contact from concerned, law-abiding gun owners the Roanoke Times has decided to remove the concealed carry permit database from its website. However, in their statement, the paper indicates that they are working with the State Police to determine how to proceed.

Please continue to contact both the Roanoke Times at (540) 981-3340, as well as its President and Publisher Debbie Meade at (540) 981-3326, and strongly urge them to cease from any future actions that would endanger law-abiding gun owners.

We will continue to keep you informed of any new developments. (link)

Now he's in for it.

The NRA is a force more powerful than Mother Nature. And it's stirred to action.

The Times would have done well to have stuck to electricity deregulation and credit card interest and such.

Now the phones will light up. (Actually, it appears they already are)

Why do I not feel sorry for these guys?

* Disclosure: I am a proud member of the NRA.

** Not sure what this is all about: "There were also some threatening comments directed at Trejbal that led the newspaper to place a security guard, at least temporarily, outside his Christiansburg house." Let's not overreact, fellas. He's hardly worth it.

In Response To The Looming Terrorist Threat ...

... we unionize airport baggage screeners.

I feel safer. You?
Senate Passes Bill on Steps Advised by Sept. 11 Panel
By Michael Luo, The New York Times


Washington, March 13 — The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would enact more recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission, but the bill faces the threat of a White House veto because it offers expanded union rights to airport screeners.

Passage of the bill, more than two years after the bipartisan commission issued its findings, came on a vote of 60 to 38, with a smattering of Republicans joining with Democrats to approve it.

The Bush administration has made clear it will reject counterterrorism legislation that includes language pushed by Senate Democrats, granting collective bargaining rights to employees of the Transportation Security Administration. Administration officials said the labor requirements would hamper the department’s flexibility in responding to terrorist threats. (link)
3,000 people are slaughtered in New York City and the Democrats respond by unionizing the work force at America's civilian airports.

For the love of Christ.

I'd Fire Them Too

Make no mistake. You work for me and your loyalties lie elsewhere? You'll go elsewhere.

Those in the Bush administration apparently feel the same way:

‘Loyalty’ to Bush and Gonzales Was Factor in Prosecutors’ Firings, E-Mail Shows
By David Johnston and Eric Lipton, The New York Times


Washington, March 13 — Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush’s most trusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Department aide. “We’re a go,” it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove seven federal prosecutors considered weak or not team players.

The message, from William K. Kelley of the White House counsel’s office to D. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, put in motion a plan to fire United States attorneys that had been hatched 22 months earlier by Ms. Miers. Three days later, the seven prosecutors were summarily dismissed. An eighth had been forced out in the summer. (link)


Lost in the angst and remorse over the firings is this: U.S. attorneys are political appointees. They serve the President. And if they don't serve the President to his satisfaction, they are removed. Ask Bill Clinton. He holds the record for U.S. attorney firings.

Despite the breathless tones being employed by Chuck Schumer and his ilk, these attorneys serve solely at the President's discretion. And President Bush has fired seven of them. Get over it.

Need I Say More

The extremely fringe-liberal editorial staff of the Roanoke Times sings retiring once-Republican Senator John Chichester's praises this morning.

That's all that needs to be said about that.

'Defy Thy God & Unleash The Wrath Of The Ages'

The General Fund worship is getting beyond ridiculous.

Bart Hinkle has the latest:

It's a Raid!: Why Is Gov. Kaine Stealing From Widows and Orphans?
A. Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch Columnist


[Governor Tim] Kaine and his compadres are making a huge deal out of the diversion [of General Funds to road improvements], which -- according to The Washington Post -- "exposes a deep philosophical rift" over government funding.

That's what Kaine would like people to think. The governor is crisscrossing the state lambasting the idea. Amy Reger, executive director of the state Democratic Party, says the Assembly plan will "steal money from our schools, our colleges, and our frail elderly." Brian Moran, leader of the House of Delegates' Democratic caucus and a potential gubernatorial candidate himself, has even set up a Web site www.NoRaid.net -- urging voters, "Don't let Republican lawmakers raid education, health care, public safety, and environmental protection! They want to pull $200 million away from these important programs to build roads." At a news conference, Moran insisted Virginia "can't solve our transportation problem by holding more classes in trailers, having fewer nursing-home beds for our elderly, and failing to provide equipment to our first responders." (link)

Bastards! Who is it that has set out to destroy our commonwealth? Name names! Off with their heads!

But wait. Hinkle adds this:
The chief complaint about the transportation package is that it diverts up to $184 million per year from the state's general fund to roads, which traditionally have been funded with non-general-fund revenue -- i.e., money from dedicated sources such as the gasoline tax. (Few have noted that the last big infusion of new money for roads, brought to fruition by Gerald Baliles, relied on a half-cent increase in the sales tax -- traditionally a general-fund revenue source. Oops!)
Say it ain't so! General Funds in the form of sales tax revenue are being diverted to the state's roads already? But what about Brian Moran's apoplexy? And Amy Reger's tearful warnings? And the Governor's confused and bumbling lambastations?

You may recall, Barnie Day, writing recently in the Roanoke Times, brought to our attention the fact that this isn't the first time that funding for road repairs and improvements has been taken out of the General Fund. To quote him again: "The late, great A. L. Philpott did exactly the same thing years ago when he carved out set-aside money for an upgrade of U.S. 58 across Southside Virginia."

Here's how that piece of legislation reads:

§ 58.1-815. U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Fund.

There is hereby created in the Department of the Treasury a special nonreverting fund which shall be a part of the Transportation Trust Fund and which shall be known as the U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Fund, consisting of the first $40 million of annual collections of the state recordation taxes imposed by this chapter; provided, however, this dedication shall not affect the local recordation taxes under §§ 58.1-802 B and 58.1-814. The Fund shall also include such other funds as may be appropriated by the General Assembly from time to time, and designated for this Fund and all interest, dividends and appreciation which may accrue thereto. Any moneys remaining in the Fund at the end of a biennium shall not revert to the General Fund, but shall remain in the Fund. Allocations from this Fund may be paid to any authority, locality or commission for the purposes specified in § 33.1-221.1:2.

(1989, c. 286.)

See also § 33.1-221.1:2 for S. Route 58 Corridor Development Program details.

I post this last bit of information for a reason. I've since been informed that the $40 million that is being removed annually from the General Fund and transferred to the U.S. Route 58 Corridor Development Fund has since been increased to $50 million ...

... by the actions of one W. Roscoe Reynolds.

A Democrat shamelessly raiding the General Fund.

And now the news that a portion of our sales tax revenue - revenue that is required by God to be piled into the General Fund coffers - is being diverted to fix the state's highways. Already.

The commonwealth trembles. We teeter on the brink ...

Hat tip to Barnie Day

Oprah Nation

I think experts refer to it as a psychosis:

A surprise slavery apology
Gadfly's gesture leaves Richmond's council stunned and in tears
By Michael Martz, The Richmond Times-Dispatch


For once, Silver Persinger had the full attention of Richmond City Council.

The persistent gadfly from Oregon Hill left members of council in tears and stunned silence last night with a personal gesture of reconciliation for the sins of the slave trade.
"My ancestors owned slaves 301 slaves," Persinger said, his voice choked with emotion. "I would like to apologize on behalf of my family. I would like to apolo- gize for the sins of my fathers."

His words prompted an outburst of tears from Council Vice President Delores L. McQuinn, 7th District, who had introduced a resolution of support for the unveiling of the Richmond Slavery Reconciliation Statue on March 30.

"Hopefully, there will be individuals like Mr. Persinger, who come out and pour out their hearts," McQuinn said in a halting voice. "I accept your apology." (link)

Too Smart By Half

The GOP in Washington thought it had it all figured out. Buying votes worked so well for the Democrats over the years that the Republicans figured they'd get in on it too.

The result:
In Brief
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Donald Boudreaux, chairman of George Mason's economics department, in The American: "Uncle Sam today takes from Americans' pockets about $2.5 trillion per year. In real dollars, this sum is 54 percent higher than what Bill Clinton's government took during its first year in office ($1.62 trillion) and 10 percent higher than what George W. Bush's government took during its first year ($2.28 trillion) . . . . Uncle Sam's revenues are nearly twice what they were a mere 27 years ago. Twice! Remember, these figures are adjusted to correct for inflation." (link)
The irony is this: The GOP calculated that this would enhance their power in Washington. How many members remain?

Hat tip to Barnie Day