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Senator Obenshain is 100 Percent Right; Too Bad Both Parties are Implicated in the Same Sort of Thing!

I got this email from Senator Obenshain (along with a million or so other people) and I agreed ONE HUNDRED PERCENT with it!  Here it is:

Friends,

About two years ago through a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Volkswagen Corporation, the automobile manufacturer agreed to “invest” $2.9 billion in an independently administered environmental trust, which will fund projects to fully mitigate the diesel emissions caused by their offending vehicles. 

Virginia’s portion of this settlement turns out to be about $93.6M to be paid to the Commonwealth over the next ten years.  That’s a substantial amount any way you look at it.

Virginia is going to use that $93.6M in a variety of ways, but it was allowed use up to 15 percent for electric vehicle charging stations. The optimal word here is ‘allowed’.  The settlement doesn’t REQUIRE that Virginia spend a single dime of these funds on electric charging stations.

But do you think our liberal Governor and Attorney General decided to do so?

You guessed it…last week, our Governor unilaterally decided to use all $14 million of the first installment to have a company called EVGo from neighboring socialist country…I mean California…set up electric vehicle stations in heavily congested areas in Virginia.  (Translation: Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax)

You’re not mis-reading this…$14M. On car charging stations.

This is social(ist) engineering at its worst.

I, for one, don’t appreciate the Northam Administration’s attempt to engineer social change and influence what I should or should not drive. Get your hands out of my life. The government doesn’t run gas stations; and it shouldn’t be setting up car charging stations either.

If that’s not enough, here’s what I know about EVgo. It’s based in Los Angeles. Its CEO is Cathy Zoi who has collectively given almost $17,000 (that we know of) over the last ten years to liberals like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  She is a George Soros associate and is the founding CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection, which was established and chaired by Al Gore.

We could’ve done so much better with that $14M. Rather than use it towards I-81 improvements, or increasing funding for soil & water conservation districts, or for incentivizing agricultural best management practices (all of which have an environmental impact on our Commonwealth), the Governor decided that Virginians would be better served by a crony capitalist deal with a California company, led by a Soros associate, installing electric car charging stations. 

Heck, even liberal states are using it to replace old school buses for their children. I could’ve gotten on board with that.

Last year, the Attorney General took money out of another major settlement and used it to pay hefty raises to his senior staff – many of whom were his political appointees — when other state employees were not getting raises.  This year, it appears as if he and the Governor are using another slush fund to pay off political debts to the likes of George Soros, Tom Steyer and their other left wing environmental extremist pals. 

This spending is not reflective of our needs or values, here in the Valley or statewide.  These are priorities of left-wing environmental extremists and they are being funded out of a slush fund allowing the Governor to bypass the budgeting and appropriation process.

We’re just a few months away from the next election cycle.  This is just one more example of why we need conservative leadership in Richmond and in Washington, DC.  I don’t like to see that much money going to a liberal company in liberal California claiming to be fighting “climate change.” I want those funds being used here in Virginia to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens.

Amen!  Preach it!

Now, that we have established the principle of no more crony capitalism in the Commonwealth I want to encourage Senator Obenshain (who I voted for for AG and the blog endorsed he would have been much much better than the present incumbent) to find other examples of such misbehavior and root it out!  But it implicates BOTH parties!

Senator, let’s start with the Collaborative Economic Development Act.  Here is the official legislative summary of the bill that became law in overwhelming “bipartisan” numbers:

Virginia Collaborative Economic Development Act. Creates the Virginia Collaborative Economic Development Performance Grant Fund (the Fund). The Fund will be administered by the Go Virginia Board. Two or more localities that collaborate and adopt a collaborative economic development plan will be eligible for grants from the Fund over a period of six years if the collaboration results in the location or expansion of a company in the Commonwealth that (i) creates at least 200 new jobs with average salaries at least equal to the average wage and (ii) makes a capital investment of at least $25 million. The total amount of the grant applied for shall not exceed 50 percent of the total investment of the localities in executing the collaborative economic development plan, and each annual installment of the grant may not exceed 45 percent of the total annual amount of personal income tax withheld by the certified company from the newly created jobs. Upon making a written finding of significant fiscal distress in or extraordinary economic opportunity for the participating localities, the Go Virginia Board may lower the job and capital investment requirements to no fewer than 25 new jobs and no less than $1 million in capital investment and may award up to 100 percent of the total investment of the localities. No grants shall be awarded absent a subsequent enactment of the General Assembly authorizing the award of the grants, and the grant program will sunset on July 1, 2026. This bill is identical to HB 846.

Guess where the money came from for the Virginia Collaborative Economic Development Performance Grant Fund came from?  Not the tooth fairy (we call him the Molenator in my house!) for sure.  Of course Virginia taxpayers.  I also do not approve of dividing the Commonwealth into artificial “regions” for the giving of grants.

Only two senators said NO:  NAYS–Chase, Garrett–2.  Yes, Amanda Chase and Tom Garrett.

Here is the enabling act for the Fund:

§ 2.2-5108. (Expires July 1, 2026) Virginia Collaborative Economic Development Performance Grant Fund.

There is hereby created in the state treasury a special nonreverting fund to be known as the Virginia Collaborative Economic Development Performance Grant Fund. The Fund shall be established on the books of the Comptroller and administered by the Board. All funds appropriated for such purpose shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the Fund. Interest earned on moneys in the Fund shall remain in the Fund and be credited to it. Any moneys remaining in the Fund, including interest thereon, at the end of each fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund but shall remain in the Fund. Moneys in the Fund shall be used solely for the purposes of providing grants to participating localities pursuant to this chapter. Expenditures and disbursements from the Fund shall be made by the State Treasurer on warrants issued by the Comptroller upon written request signed by the chairman of the Board.

And I am afraid to say again:  Most of the delegates and senators said yes to this too.  In both parties!  It’s in the same bills as the Act!  Only Chase and Garrett said NO (to the Senate version).

Here’s one more potential example for the senator:  I recommend a study bill for this issue:

Now let’s turn to the Virginia Film Office:  This state agency gives grants and tax exemptions to films.  Here is the website.

Here is a summary from that website:

The Virginia Film Office is dedicated to the art and business of filmmaking. We connect clients with amazing locations, resources and creative solutions for projects of all types and sizes. From the infancy of an idea, to the emotional goodbye at the wrap party—we are your production partner throughout the entire process. The VFO is proud to be recognized as one of the most knowledgeable, effective and helpful film commissions, worldwide.

So tell me this, dear reader – why is the Commonwealth of Virginia “collaborating” with film makers with YOUR money to make films just so they are in the Commonwealth?

But Sandy, you don’t get it:  All those film makers will bring money into the Commonwealth!  Business and tax dollars!  The Times-Dispatch article I cite below says that one TV show brought in $75,000,000.00 of economic impact (I like writing out the numbers) but offers no support.  I need to see the data behind this.  You can access it, Senator Obenshain.  Make ’em prove it!

My experiences from the bike race make me a skeptic on these types of projections.  The law calls for tax exemptions if you produce a film of more than $250,000.  Why start at that amount?  Read this from the website:

Virginia has two different incentive funds. The Motion Picture Opportunity Fund provides grants, and the Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit Fund provides refundable tax credits. In addition to the incentive funds, the state also has a Sales and Use Tax Exemption that applies to the purchase of production related supplies and equipment. Hotel stays of 30 days or more are also exempt from state sales tax and some local lodging taxes.

That’s right, Virginia Taxpayer, the film company gets BOTH grants of YOUR money and exemptions from taxpayers.  And states are starting to shy away from film incentives:

Since 2009, 13 states have ended their film incentive programs. Most recently, Wyoming and West Virginia eliminated film incentive programs. Wyoming allowed its program to expire, and a bill to reinstate it failed during the 2017 legislative session. On Jan. 29, 2018, West Virginia’s governor signed a bill passed by the Legislature to eliminate the states’ film tax credits. This action followed a January 2018 report released by the states’ legislative auditor that cited the credits’ minimal economic benefit to the state.

These actions mark a larger trend of states re-evaluating or paring back film incentive programs. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, Colorado, Maryland and Texas reduced the annual appropriation available for film incentive programs. Oklahoma reduced its annual program cap from $5 million to $4 million. Most notably, Louisiana, the pioneer of state film incentives, introduced a $150 million cap on the amount of credits that can be issued each year. This change was enacted due to increasing budgetary pressures in the state and the uncertainty uncapped film credits can create in budgeting.

And this article from the NCSL – National Conference of State Legislatures – concludes that returns are uncertain:

However, state legislators are seeking to balance these industry facts with the forgone revenues and unclear economic outcomes that state film incentive programs produce.

I am sure that at the very least, Senator Obenshain will introduce a much-needed study of the economic benefit of state film commissions.

BTW, I can’t leave this issue without this little gem:

Virginia Tourism paid $536K for ‘The Bachelorette’ to film in Richmond

There is more:

If the attraction-laden footage looked like an advertisement for the city, that’s because it sort of was. Virginia Tourism Corp. paid $536,130.38 for the show to film here.

Virginia Tourism made a financial contribution of $300,000 to “The Bachelorette” to film in Virginia and $236,130.38 to help defray costs of rooms, meals, production space, internet and parking at the Graduate Hotel and Quirk Hotel, where the cast and staff stayed during filming, according to documents obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Now the Film Office CANNOT give tax incentives or grants to reality based TV shows!

So the Virginia Tourism Corporation, funded by tax dollars…

Getting a show like “The Bachelorette” to film in Richmond is part of a new strategy for Virginia Tourism, which has an overall budget of $26.8 million for 2018, the bulk of which comes from the state general fund.

…did it instead!

That money could have gone to more incentives for teachers in the schools instead of a morally dubious TV show.

This is probably alas the Tip of the Iceberg, Senator Obenshain!  I am sure there are more such laws and incentives on the books but I believe that this is a good start.

I’ll help you, Senator Obenshain, at this blog and on the hill, when you introduce those bills to repeal Go Virginia and the Film Office and take on crony capitalism – in both parties!

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

3 Responses to “Senator Obenshain is 100 Percent Right; Too Bad Both Parties are Implicated in the Same Sort of Thing!”

  1. Robert Shannon says:

    In a nation 21 trillion in debt this is solid proof of what silly men and women we have leading us, at every level.

    Unless and until we do two things

    Take the money out of politics with public financing of all elections, and a outright ban on political advertising. Citizen United was a very bad decision and needs reversed

    Strictly enforced term limits, No one in any office can serve more than two terms

    Nothing changes, these examples are only two of the thousands of things government is involved in it has no business being involved in

    Both of the two established political parties promote and sustain this…which leads me to ask the simple question
    Why would anyone cast a ballot for a republicrat or a democan ?

    I take great comfort in knowing , should the ship go down, I went down fighting with my eyes wide open.
    Bob Shannon King William

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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