A blow is struck against the increasing authority granted to non-elected officials and bodies. The Virginia Supreme Court struck a blow for the Constitution.
At least for citizens of Virginia.
The Virginia Supreme Court dealt a crippling blow to the region’s transportation plans on Friday when it ruled that the General Assembly cannot delegate taxing power to nonelected bodies.
The ruling means that the seven taxes and fees the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority had planned to impose in May to finance about $9 billion in road projects cannot be collected.
Because it did not strike down the state’s right to create it, the high court left open the possibility that the authority could survive. But the court placed responsibility for raising revenue to finance the road projects squarely on the shoulders of state legislators.
The unanimous ruling hit the General Assembly like a bomb, leaving lawmakers in Richmond dazed about what to do on the complex and politically charged issue of transportation.
The story typically interviews the one person most sympathetic to hitting the public with additional taxes: the director of the agency that would have received the taxpayers’ money.
Art Collins, acting executive director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority, characterized the ruling in stark terms.
“We just went back 12 years,” he said. “We have no valid transportation plan now. It is just nuclear – that’s the only way to describe it. There is no reading between the lines. They said you can’t do it.”
The legislature in Virginia appears no different than lawmakers elsewhere.
They want to create “feel-good” programs with other people’s money–but don’t want to take the responsibility of paying for them. The election year charge of “He raised your taxes!” is not one incumbents want to hear.
So they dish the details off to non-elected groups: authorities, commissions, etc.
Many Democratic lawmakers said the ruling was a repudiation of the House Republican leadership, which had sponsored the road bill last year that left the decision about raising taxes and fees in the hands of the regional authorities.
Upon learning of the decision, Del. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, uttered a triumphant “Yes!”
“First of all, I didn’t vote for it anyway,” Spruill said. “My question is, ‘How can a city tax another city?’ So I was right. I voted against it because it’s not right for a group of cities to form an authority to tax another city.”
The reporter for the story interviewed another person who stood to gain from the now-unconstitutional plan: the transportation authority’s chairman.
Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, the authority’s chairman, said he plans to meet with Kaine on Monday to discuss the region’s next move.
“It’s a setback,” Fraim said.
Opponents of the authority, who have long argued it was constitutionally dubious, rejoiced, saying the high court supported their long struggle to force lawmakers to ask all Virginians, not just the large metropolitan regions, to pay for road improvements.
“We are ecstatic about it,” said Robert Dean, head of the Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance, which supported the suit against the authorities.
What do non-elected bodies do when they receive an influx of taxpayer funds?
Put people on the payroll, naturally.
The authority, which is in the process of hiring staff, has already approved a $497 million plan that includes $50 million a year for Washington’s Metro system, $25 million a year for the Virginia Regional Express, and numerous road projects.
The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled non-elected bodies can’t levy taxes.
The American Revolution was fought over just such an issue: no taxation without representation. That principle has been diluted over the years as elected bodies delegate all manner of power to non-elected officials.
If the public disagrees, they have no where to turn: they can’t vote non-elected officials out of office.
Now, if only next the attention turns to unelected Smoke and Health Nazis. Anti-smoking fines and jail terms are being pronounced, in many cases, by unelected health group officials throughout the nation.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
hat tip: Michael Wagner Freedom Phoenix
Source: Regional Transportation Authorities Ruled Unconstitutional