Waynesboro: Gilmore’s good timing

Column by Chris Graham

Jim Gilmore spent two hours in Waynesboro on Monday visiting with the editorial staff at The News Virginian. His timing could have been better, given what happened later Monday in the River City.

“The thing that I have a dilemma about this is I don’t like to raise taxes on the citizens. What happens if we don’t pass this is we’ll have to make up the difference,” Vice Mayor Frank Lucente said at the Waynesboro City Council meeting Monday night, explaining his vote for a 7 percent increase in the amount of money that city residents will pay in personal-property taxes on cars and trucks.

The council voted to keep the rate at which cars and trucks are taxed in Waynesboro flat with where it was last year. But because the General Assembly has yet to figure out a way around the foolhardy approach advocated by Gilmore for bringing about quick if incomplete relief on personal-property taxes in his 1997 gubernatorial run, flat means more money coming out of your pocket.

Lucente said Monday that it is “upsetting” to him that “the state has put us in the position to do this.” He could have more specifically called out Gilmore by name and been more accurate. The Gilmore no car tax from his ’97 campaign for governor was fatally flawed in that it did not involve an amendment to the Virginia Constitution taking the personal-property tax on cars and trucks off the books entirely and completely. Instead, it went for the quick fix in offering reimbursements to localities from the state treasury that were bound to dwindle in real value as new cars and trucks replaced older cars and trucks in the tax rolls as time went on.

That’s what is happening in Waynesboro ahead of this vote by city council Monday night. According to a report in today’s News Virginian, the number of cars on the tax rolls in Waynesboro grew by 250 in the most recent fiscal-year accounting, shifting the burden for the $180,000 shortfall in the state reimbursement to the city.

Which makes ironic the comment that Gilmore made in his meeting with the NV earlier Monday regarding his car-tax plan. “I kept my word and did what I said I would do,” Gilmore told the editorial staff.

Maybe I missed something covering that ’97 election. Did he promise to raise local tax burdens across the Commonwealth back during that campaign?

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