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House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong nailed it perfectly some weeks ago when he attempted to sum up the end result of the governor’s budget proposal: “Opening the rest areas and closing the schools.”
Robert Francis McDonnell has made it clear on more than one occasion that one thing he won’t do is raise taxes.
But it was reported recently that the new governor is agreeable to the increase of certain “fees” in this state. So, let me see if I understand the conservative mindset correctly….taxes: worse than torture and death; but fees…well, they’re okay.
Other people insist that a fee and a tax are basically the same thing. But since conservatives have so hampered their ability to reason (not to mention their ability to govern) with their maniacal opposition to any new taxes, we see their need for engaging in word games.
But what’s happening in the schools around this state - and right here in Bedford County - is no game. “Real Virginians,” as McDonnell strangely put it, are going to suffer because of the budget shortfall and because of the almost inarticulate hostility that most conservatives have for tax increases, even when they are as necessary as they obviously are right now.
Yes, the governor is absolutely to be blamed for putting localities in this position, given his refusal to seek new revenue at the state level. But local leaders aren’t helping the situation any when they, too, refuse to even consider a tax increase. Cutting something to the bone doesn’t work anymore once you’ve reached the bone marrow.
My colleague on this page, Dr. John Barnhart, weighed in with his view on the matter and was subsequently attacked in a way that is usually reserved here only for me.
I thought the good doctor was joking at first when I read his column, where he recommended eliminating athletic programs and guidance counselors from county schools.
Actually, though, his proposals - absurd is the kindest description - were a good example of the hoops conservatives will jump through rather than even think about a possible tax increase. Barnhart also revealed what appears to be his contempt for teachers, his hatred for unions, and his deep misunderstanding of the Virginia Education Association.
The VEA is just what its title says it is: an association, not a union. Since it lacks collective bargaining power - something any real union enjoys - it can hardly be among the true ranks of “organized labor.” If Barnhart doesn’t know this, teachers certainly do.
Then, at a public hearing last Monday, where teachers showed up in large numbers to express their support for a tax hike, supervisor Steve Arrington had a John Barnhart moment of his own, when, according to The News & Advance, he said this: “…what the answer is, I don’t know. But I can tell you it’s not government.”
Under the circumstances, that is an incredible remark. Does Mr. Arrington not realize that he and the other supervisors are the only government Bedford County has? If the schools and the teachers can’t get an answer from supervisors, to whom should they turn? McDonnell?
I suppose the board could take a page from McDonnell’s playbook. Change the name of the real estate tax to the real estate fee, go ahead and raise it, and you can still say you didn’t raise taxes!
In all seriousness, teachers, students and the entire public school system deserves better than what they’re likely to get from McDonnell and the rest of the professional tax haters. The board needs to do the right thing: Buck the right-wing orthodoxy of the day: raise the real estate tax and prevent the closing of two schools.
What’s needed is a thing called courage.