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Will McDonnell approve proposed 18-cent phone 'fee' that's really a 'tax'?

Anita Kumar

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has said over and over that he will reject any proposals to raise taxes during the economic recession.

"If you pass a bill in this recession that raises taxes on the hardworking families of Virginia I will veto it,'' he told legislators during his speech to them on his third day in office. "And if you pass a budget embedded with those same tax increases, I will not approve it."

It turns out one of the so-called "fees" that the Senate is proposing in its version of the state budget is actually a tax increase -- at least according to the code of Virginia.

Former governor Tim Kaine and the Senate call adding 18 cents to a 75-cent fee on phone lines a "surcharge" but the code calls it a "tax." Sure, it acts like a "fee" in that it's a cost imposed on phone users but the code actually calls it a tax.

(The folks at Americans for Prosperity found this. The anti-tax group has been railing against the Democratic-controlled Senate for the millions of dollars in fees it approved in its budget.)

So what does the governor think of the 911 tax?

McDonnell's office has said that the govenor could back fees if they're used to fund specific services, but has not expressed an opinion on this particular one.

"We are currently reviewing the House and Senate budgets, and the governor and his finance team are meeting with the budget conferees,'' spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said. "The governor has been clear that in regards to fees they must be rationally connected to the service provided, not have been raised recently and must be equal to or less than the actual cost of providing that service."

Senators agreed to raise fees on a host of services to cushion the blow to public education, cutting $487 million less in education funding over the next two years than the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee. House members rejected increased fees amid the recession, seeing them as no different than tax increases.

By Anita Kumar  |  March 5, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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The hostility and constant potshots toward McDonnell in this column are getting old. It's time for reassignment; you guys have lost your objectivity.

Posted by: tomtildrum | March 5, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

It's a shell game that ends up costing taxpayers more in the end. Trade fees for state taxes and individuals end up losing a federal income tax deduction.

So, McDonnell's plan assures we pay the same amount to Virginia, but end up paying more to the feds.

And so just how is this supposed to be reducing costs to taxpayers???

Posted by: ViennaBelle | March 5, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Smoke and mirrors from McD. GOPers, every sensible person knows that FEES = TAXES. These two words are the exact same thing. Damn these hypocrites who fool the rubes everytime.

Posted by: hadelaide | March 5, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

This tax is 18 cents per month on Virginia phone bills--that's $2.16 per year--going to a fund for families of uniformed public safety officials disabled or killed in the line of duty.

Americans for Prosperity has distorted the truth, calling this a "24 percent tax hike," funding "an array of benefits for a wide variety of state and local government employees."

That's not true. It's 18 cents per month for death and disability benefits for the very people who risk their lives to rescue you when someone calls 911.

Shame on Americans for Prosperity for throwing first responders under the bus to exploit the public's economic fears for political gain.

- Steve Lebowitz, Annapolis, Maryland

Posted by: justdafactsSteveLebowitz | March 8, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

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