Sunday, September 20, 2009

State Sen. Mark Obenshain's thoughts on Jimmy Carter, state revenue, and Del. Matt Lohr

State Sen. Mark Obenshain recently discussed several issues of importance....

Jimmy Carter, Peacemaker?
It's probably not on your calendar, but September 21st is the International Day of Peace, and former President Jimmy Carter will be in town lecturing on the subject. Unfortunately, the former president hasn't acted like much of a peacemaker this past week, fanning the flames and engaging in a little race baiting by accusing critics of President Obama, and specifically Rep. Joe Wilson, of racial animus.

Now, I don't approve of Joe Wilson's antics. There are right and wrong ways to challenge the President's assertions, and interrupting an address before a joint session of Congress falls in the latter category. Rather than criticizing a lack of decorum, however – hardly a first in the often boisterous world of politics – Jimmy Carter wasted no time in playing the race card, accusing Wilson and other critics of ObamaCare of mounting opposition to the proposal out of a deep-seated racism.

I don't suppose it could simply be that they oppose the bill on the merits? I don't know about Mr. Carter, but I, for one, remember a similar backlash when President Clinton advanced his health care proposals in 1994. Maybe the American people are simply uncomfortable with a government takeover of health care.

Racism is not, alas, dead, and I have no doubt that some small number of President Obama's critics are animated by such base motives. To assume that dissent implies racism, however, is to slander anyone who happens to have a different point of view. It is an attempt to stifle dissent, not a way to bring people to the table. Someone who styles himself a peacemaker should know better.

Lohr for Accountability / Hart for a Gas Tax
Closer to home, my friend and General Assembly colleague Matt Lohr is up for reelection this year. Matt is a happy warrior for the conservative cause and for the Valley he loves, and we need him back in Richmond. At a Rotary Club forum a few days ago, his Democratic opponent supported raising the gas tax. Matt knows that the road to economic recovery is not paved with higher taxes – but if his message of common sense conservatism is going to triumph this November, he'll need your support, both financially and at the polls. You can view his website here.

August Revenues
Finally, the August revenue reports were released yesterday, and I'm afraid Virginia's economic outlook remains bleak. Total general fund revenue collections fell 6.6% in August compared with August 2008, with total revenues year-to-date falling 7.3%, substantially trailing the revised annual forecast of a 1.6% decline. And note the revised: this is where we are after a $1 billion downward revision last month. One thing is clear – higher taxes are not going to get us out of this recession. Times are tough, but we can weather the storm just like families across America – by tightening our belts and exercise some spending restraint.

I don't mean to sound too pessimistic. Most economists now believe that the economy either has, or soon will, hit bottom, and that a recovery is on the way. Securities have been on an upward trajectory for a few months, though perhaps in advance of some fundamental indicators, and unemployment continues to rise. I do believe a recovery is on the way, but it will not happen overnight – and we're still operating under an unrealistically optimistic budget. That the Governor just ordered another $1 billion round of cuts and we're still not on track ought to serve as a wake-up call.

Especially since all the previous wake-up calls were ignored. The Kaine administration keeps hitting the snooze button, hoping to ride out the end of Kaine's term, but meanwhile, the budget has become a shambles and the next governor will have to pick up the pieces. The Governor's latest round of cuts, painful as they were, marked a step in the right direction, but it's well past time to get serious about budgeting to realistic revenue numbers, not responding piecemeal, waiting for the next shoe to fall. Virginia can't afford any more of the Tim Kaine – Jody Wagner style of budgeting.

I hope you'll join me, therefore, in making an investment in sound governance. With Election Day rapidly approaching, please give generously of your time and money to help fiscally prudent candidates, from the Governor's mansion to the House of Delegates. I'm doing my part; won't you join me?

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