Do you expect to use a plastic grocery bag, buy gas, or die? Scott Surovell wants to reach further in your wallet if you do.
If you plan on using a store-provided plastic grocery bag, buying gas, or dying, you should know that Mt. Vernon area Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44) would like to make each of these activities more expensive for you. The Virginia General Assembly has just commenced, and Scott Surovell has come out of the gate leading the way on efforts to create new taxes that would further burden Virginia families who are just trying to make ends meet.
Even before the General Assembly convened for the 2012 session, Scott very publicly stated that he wanted to raise Virginia’s gasoline tax. Sure enough, while he didn’t introduce his own bill, he immediately became a co-patron of HB 422, a bill that would raise Virginia’s gasoline tax by 4 percent.
What is ironic is that of all the communities in Virginia, families and individuals in Scott’s own Mt. Vernon-centered 44th district would be among those hardest hit by an increase in the gas tax. A recent study by On Numbers, a Bizjournals.com blog, compared the commute length of residents in 3,012 similarly sized communities. Commutes by residents of Mt. Vernon ranked number 2,902. Those of us who live in the Mt. Vernon area spend more time commuting in our cars than do 96.4 percent of our counterparts. If HB 422 passes, our longer commutes mean we will feel the pain at the pumps more than most others in similar communities.
Gas prices are now close to record levels, economic growth is weak, and Virginia families are trying harder than ever to make ends meet. In addition to hitting our wallets directly at the gas pump, rising gas prices also affect us every time we buy any good transported over our roadways. Northern Virginians already pay more than our fair share in transportation taxes. Instead of increasing our gasoline taxes, our legislators should be working to see that existing tax dollars are re-directed back to our community to pay for vital transportation upkeep and improvements.
Another one of Scott’s first actions this session was to become the first co-patron of a bill that would add a tax of 20 cents for each of the common plastic grocery bags we get at the store. The stated rationale behind this bill, HB 124, is to encourage the use of reusable grocery bags to cut down on the amount of litter. While no one wants increased litter and pollution, this bill is certainly not the way to make our communities cleaner.
HB 124 is a bad bill because it denies consumers a choice, while at the same time imposing hefty fines on those who don’t have, choose not to use, or forget their reusable grocery bags at home. We have reusable grocery bags in our house, and we use them regularly. But sometimes we want the plastic bags. My family, like so many others, uses them around our house for packing lunches and lining small trash cans for example. The right of Virginia consumers to choose is important and shouldn’t be treated like a crime with a punishment of a 20-cent per bag fine. Instead of punishing consumers, we should do more to encourage recycling. Recycling cleans up the environment and helps creates Virginia jobs in the recycling industry.
Maybe we can somehow avoid driving. Maybe we can avoid using plastic bags from the grocery store. But I have yet to come across anyone who has figured out a way to avoid death. And another one of Scott’s first actions in the House of Delegates was to become the co-sponsor of HB 419, a bill that reinstates the estate tax or “death tax” in Virginia. While there is an exemption on the estate tax for those owning a “closely held business or working farm”, if Scott had his way, the rest of us who worked hard and paid taxes while growing our estates would have our estates taxed again when we passed them on to our descendants.
The Virginia General Assembly repealed estate taxes in the Commonwealth in 2006, and the case against estate or “death taxes” has been made often at both the federal and state levels. I don’t need to repeat all the arguments. But there are plenty. Even those like Scott, who believe in the use of the tax code to manipulate human behavior, should be against estate taxes. Instead of encouraging positive behavior like hard work and saving, “death taxes” encourage people to spend all their wealth before they die instead of passing it along to their families.
In addition to reinstating the “death tax”, HB 419 increases the regulations on the nursing home industry. I am generally opposed to imposing new regulations unless absolutely necessary. Regulations often have a chilling effect on small businesses and individuals and dampen economic growth. Civilizations are often judged by how well we treat those on either end of the spectrum of life, and I do believe that we should ensure certain standards of care on the facilities taking care of our loved ones in their latter years. If Scott and others believe that further regulation of the nursing home industry is necessary, then the regulations found in HB 419 should stand alone in their own bill and be debated on their merits—they should not be tied to a reinstatement of the estate tax. I actually find it very cynical that these two efforts are linked. It seems that supporters of HB 419 want to make sure the elderly are better cared for, while picking their pocket on the way out.
When Scott and I ran against each other this last election cycle, he and I did not disagree on everything. We agreed that roads are not built with “pixie dust” and that government needs to raise funds to pay for legitimate expenditures such as investing in our transportation infrastructure. That said, I don’t think the default setting for a legislator should be to raise taxes on working families as a matter of first recourse. Instead of raiding the wallets of hard working families and individuals, I believe the first inclination of a legislator should be to try to reduce the size of government to its core functions, so that there is less of government that we have to feed.
Residents of the 44th district really hope the General Assembly successfully improves our local transportation infrastructure and helps boost small businesses and our local economy—things that make all of our lives easier. These bills that Scott has co-patroned—and is now trying to push through the legislative session—aren’t going to do anything to help us on either of those fronts. On the contrary, if they pass, we will find ourselves with government’s hand deeper in our pockets and with less left in our wallets.