Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Virginia, Businesses Argue for Taxes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Virginia, Businesses Argue for Taxes

Article excerpt

Business leaders, particularly those in construction, have long endorsed government spending on roads and schools. It's good for business.

But in Virginia, top executives are taking their concerns about poor infrastructure and untrained workers to a new level.

In a move that may be a harbinger of efforts in other states, more than 100 of Old Dominion's most influential businessmen - both Republicans and Democrats - are launching a campaign to get top local politicians to make a long-term investment in the state's education and transportation systems.

Most striking, the business leaders are open to tax increases to pay for it.

In a way, the campaign seems oddly out of step. Many states, including Virginia, are running budget surpluses. Around the country, these states have the happy task of figuring out how to spend excess wealth, not whether to bring in even more through higher taxes.

In Colorado, the hottest political issue of the year - whether to raise gasoline taxes and vehicle fees to pay for major road improvements -- vanished this past week when new budget numbers showed a surplus big enough to pay for the project.

But Virginia's business barons say their state's immediate surplus is not the issue, and that the zeal for budget-balancing and tax-cutting has gone too far.

"Business folks are saying, here are the things we need for Virginia to be successful in a knowledge-based economy. It's up to the legislature to find the funds," says Martin Haley, staff director of the Northern Virginia Roundtable, a business group that is organizing chief executives statewide in a campaign called Virginia First.

WITH the Virginia governor's race in full swing, and proposals for tax-cutting de rigueur, business leaders hardly expect the politicians to openly embrace their ideas. They just want a fair hearing, and a willingness to look ahead. …

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