2019 was a rough year for disgraced Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
Mr. Northam’s yearbook photo resurfaced, which depicted him either in a Ku Klux Klan outfit or in blackface. After apologizing for the decision to appear in the photo, Mr. Northam then walked back his apology, but not before offering to moonwalk out of his press conference to prove his innocence.
Everyone who witnessed this disturbing sequence of events was left wondering why Mr. Northam didn’t resign. Now, we know the answer: Mr. Northam is the Virginia Democratic party’s hostage. He has a job, a paycheck and silence about his despicable behavior as long as he delivers on their most radical liberal priorities.
In the year since the scandal erupted, Mr. Northam and the Democrats — who won control of Virginia for the first time in more than 20 years this past November — imposed a number of tax increase and dozens of costly labor laws and regulations.
Unfortunately for Virginians, these policies will add to the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a Republican-controlled legislature to protect Virginians from Mr. Northam’s left-wing agenda, he was able to enact 16 state and local-option tax hikes. The state gas tax, for example, is now set to increase 10 cents per gallon by 2022 and then automatically increase with inflation year-over-year. This will hurt Virginians every time they fill up their tanks.
When liberal Massachusetts tried to automatically increase its gas tax by tying it to inflation, the law was overturned by a vote of the people. Virginia is now to the left of Taxachusetts.
Mr. Northam also raised taxes on cigarette and tobacco products — which will result in Virginians shopping in North Carolina and other states with lower rates — and applied the tobacco products tax to liquid nicotine products. Taxing vaping products is especially stupid, as many Virginians have switched to e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
In addition, Mr. Northam made it easier for localities to raise taxes. He lifted the local meals tax cap from 4% to 6% and removed the voter referendum requirement to raise the rate. He also gave localities the authority to impose a 5-cent tax on plastic bags, which is particularly concerning now, as reusable bags are at risk of spreading COVID-19 and other diseases.
On top of tax increases, Mr. Northam imposed a “clean” energy mandate that will result in Virginians facing higher electricity costs.
This law, the Virginia Clean Economy Act, requires all coal-fired plants to close by the end of 2024, and Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2045 and 2050. The State Corporate Commission has estimated that, once fully implemented, this new law will add $333 in annual costs for a typical Dominion Energy residential customer.
These “clean” energy policies, which are nothing more than a subsidy for billionaire investors, will be particularly burdensome to low-income households, who spend more of their paycheck on electricity.
Mr. Northam enacted several costly labor laws that will benefit union bosses at the expense of workers and taxpayers.
The state minimum wage is set to increase 31%, from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour on May 1, 2021, then $12 by 2023, and potentially $15 by 2026 pending additional legislative approval. Throughout history, the costs of minimum wage hikes is offset by hiring fewer workers.
Mr. Northam is also permitting localities to engage in collective bargaining with local employees, repealing a prohibition first signed into law by Democratic Gov. Doug Wilder. This change will raise the cost of local government — and increase taxes — substantially.
Luckily, not all of Mr. Northam’s tinpot schemes have come to fruition. Mr. Northam’s most recent attempted power-grab was tacking on an amendment to the state budget that would have moved the municipal elections from May 5 to November.
In the process, Mr. Northam called for destroying the ballots that Virginians already cast for the May election, disenfranchising thousands of his constituents and raising important constitutional questions. After bipartisan uproar, Senate Republicans were able to stop the despotic proposal dead in its tracks.
Ultimately, Mr. Northam is a governor in name only. Even though Mr. Northam tries to flex his muscle with hare-brained power plays, he is nothing but an errand boy for the far-left Virginia Democratic Party. The moment Mr. Northam is no longer useful, the left will chew him up and spit him out.
Sadly, it is Virginians who will pay the price of Mr. Northam’s tax-and-spend policies for years to come.
• Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.
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