by Richard Falknor

“One of the most pernicious ways Republicans tend to … [expand the role of government] when in power is to conflate being pro-business with being pro-free market….Being ‘pro-business’ could mean passing legislation that grants big businesses with highly paid lobbyists tax credits, subsidies, or regulatory advantages. Being truly free market means stepping out of the way and allowing businesses to compete against each other and bear responsibility for any risks they take.” - – Philip Klein
If the Loudoun County supervisors bind their jurisdiction to paying the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) for Dulles Rail over coming decades, they will speed homeowners and commuters — those who do not flee elsewhere — into a whirlpool (like that above) of mounting taxes and tolls against which citizens may be powerless.

A Reforming Agenda or Building Pyramids?
But first, some basic questions:
in November of last year, nine Loudoun County Republican supervisors were elected or reelected. Presumably they were aware of the goals of the Tea Party movement which had given the GOP control of the House of Representatives in January of that year. Loudoun voters’ hope of reaching these goals may indeed have contributed to the supervisors’ own election victories last November.
Yet at least some of today’s supervisors seem well on the way to giving priority to harnessing taxpayers to Dulles Rail and thereby to MWAA. One is reminded of a Pharaoh building a pyramid for his life in the next world – - except that the rulers of ancient Egypt likely were not in thrall to the local desert developers or to the Union of Nile Stone Haulers.
Where Are the all-GOP Supervisors’ Priorities?
So why are the supervisors instead not putting their first and best efforts into rightsizing Loudoun government: deregulating wherever possible, privatizing wherever sensible, making the county “administrative state” (civil service) really accountable, and probing and analyzing the school budget? (Here — scroll down to #52 — is their January 3 vote against property rights where only two supervisors on that day, at least, kept their honor as conservatives.)
If they find this counsel on school budgets puzzling, we refer them to the 2012 testimony of the next-door Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance here and here.
The Fairfax numbers are, of course, different, but the concerns FCTA raises
  • “In setting salaries and benefits, the principal components of the school budget, we must consider what is just. Many teachers are paid much more than the taxpayers who provide the funds to pay them.”
  • “Is it fair to have private-sector taxpayers pay an extra $1800 in taxes to fund badly managed public-sector pensions, especially when those private-sector taxpayers no longer get pensions? We are paying high taxes for low achievement. Last year’s ACT college admission test showed that only 46 percent of the 3,707 FCPS seniors tested were prepared for college. School competition, not tax hikes, will raise achievement. The supervisors and schools should be cutting taxes by $1500, not raising them by $300.”
are likely those that should be scrutinized in Loudoun County.
The Loudoun Political Class Marches On
The Loudoun Establishment – -for want of a better phrase – - is doing its utmost here and here to ensure that the Board of Supervisors approve an expensive decades-long entrapment for ordinary homeowners called “Metrorail to Loudoun” or officially Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
The Crocodile in the Supervisors Board Room
Last February we wrote MD & VA: Defense Voices Foresee Grim Local Cuts (New)
This story . . . shows the proposed cuts on defense spending on the five most-hard hit counties in Maryland and Virginia: see the charts below.
From this chart, we see that Loudoun County may likely suffer defense cuts of $675 million, and neighboring Fairfax County of $4.647 billion to which should be added defense cuts in Fairfax City of $371 million and in Falls Church City of $22 million.
With regional cuts of this magnitude looming, how can the good Loudoun County lawmakers even contemplate buying into a giant tax-eater like Metrorail to Dulles? What are they thinking?
Long-time northern Virginia management analyst (and recognized conservative voice) Michael Giere (click here) told Blue Ridge Forum - -
“Leaving aside the question of whether Metro can run anything successfully; how realistic is it that the regional and national economy is going to be peachy in the next few years providing the revenue growth needed to feed Metro? Not good is that sad answer. Even if there is a nice Romney bump with his hopeful election in the fall, the future may already be cooked.
The grim reality is that the baseline budget has been inflated by the federal government by a huge percentage, and Obama and Congress have allowed systemic trillion dollar deficits to become the new normal. It seems difficult to believe that the political class will have the guts to return to the baseline budget of even 2008; but you can guarantee that defense spending will be dragged out onto the public-relations altar to show the voters that they are making ‘tough’ decisions. What will big defense cuts mean for the regional economy?
We’re borrowing 40 cents of every federal budget dollar now, and you could strip every penny from every millionaire in the nation and not even run the government for a month. The country is now leveraged well over 100% of debt to the gross economic output per year. That makes it plainly obvious that there will be a crash of the dollar, or inflation will devalue the dollar, or there will be some type of repudiation of the debt; perhaps some combination of all of them.
My money is on inflation – it’s the path of least resistance for Congress, and they can try to shift political blame to the President. This would devastate the housing industry – again. It’s a simply mathematical formula that for every 1% the mortgage interest rate increases, millions of potential buyers are no longer qualified to buy. Some estimates are that returning to historical norms with mortgage rates in the 6% or 7% range in the short term could drive home prices down another 25 or 30 percent by crushing an already devastated market. What would happen to the regional economy if we had even 10% devaluation in housing? And these are just the most obvious economic issues at hand.
Metro Dulles is a disaster that has already happened, and not one rider has gone to the airport yet!” (Highlighting Forum’s.)
“Loudoun Opt Out” To the Rescue
We all owe a major debt to those who put together the Loudoun citizens voice known as Loudoun Opt Out. They are doing yeoman service to protect Loudoun citizens from Loudoun crony capitalism. Click here for some of the hard questions these activists pose.
But The Fight Against Dulles Rail Didn’t Start Yesterday
Way back on March 3, 2008 we drew readers attention (scroll down) to the Heritage WebMemo by Wendell Cox and Ron Utt entitled “Dulles Rail Boondoggle Exposes Flaws in Federal Transportation Policy” which explained –
“The project’s own projections reveal the lack of any benefit that would justify its enormous cost:[noting] “The capital cost per new rider attracted to transit from a car (daily rider annualized) exceeds $15,000. That is enough to lease each new transit rider two BMW 328i convertibles for life and still return a few thousand dollars to the taxpayer. By this measure, the Dulles extension would be one of the most expensive new transit projects ever conceived” . . . [and pointing out] “Virginia’s four most prosperous commercial and residential areas–Tysons Corner, Reston, the Loudoun/Dulles tech corridor, and McLean–have one important thing in common: None is served by the existing rail transit system!”
And last September economist Utt again raised a red flag with his “The Dulles Rail Financial Disaster Continues” (Bacon’s Rebellion).
Revealed Utt – -
“The yet to be completed 23-mile extension of the Metro rail line to Dulles airport is already confronting serious financial difficulties. Added to the money problems are a series of lapses in management’s performance and the revelation that flaws in the system’s design will discourage ridership and further diminish its currently projected marginal contribution to regional mobility. In response, the system’s manager – the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) – is seeking bailouts from the state of Virginia and from the federal government.
A Project Doomed to Fail. The only surprise in all of this is that the many people in charge of overseeing the project are surprised and disappointed by these revelations: As the record reveals, the mediocre performance of the system was predicted by the project’s own justification report submitted to the federal government in 2004, and recognized by the leadership of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) during the Bush Administration who refused to fund the project until beaten into submission by Congress.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)
A Brief History of Dulles Rail Pork
Which members were doing the “beating”? Among them, the good Mr. Cantor here; and veteran House appropriator Frank Wolf here. But let’s not shortchange former Representative Tom Davis for trying to bringing home the bacon. As we wrote – -
“Last July 17 [2006], in one of the House of Representatives leadership’s less prescient moments, that body approved arguably the largest earmark of modern times — $1.5 billion to the management-challenged Metro transit system. This stand-alone package (HR 3496) authored by Representative Tom Davis and supported by Representative Frank Wolf, two Virginia Republicans, has a special gift for the unwary taxpayer. In Heritage’s Ron Utt’s words:
‘As troubling as this inequitable transfer would be, Mr. Davis’s proposal also requires that, as a condition of Metro receiving the $1.5 billion federal bailout, all communities in its service area establish a ‘dedicated funding source’ (a euphemism for a tax increase) to match the federal subsidy.’”
This measure failed of enactment in 2006.
We also cautioned in 2006 – -
“Some old-line Virginia Republicans, even if not entirely comfortable with these raids on the U. S. Treasury in behalf of local outstretched hands, nonetheless object to such public scrutiny of Republican spending during an election year. What they entirely miss is that this kind of egregious spending jeopardizes the House Republican majority nationally even if such Congressional largess may go down relatively smoothly in northern Virginia.” (Highlighting added at press time today – - Forum’s.)
Supervisor Ken Reid Has Been Raising Some Warning Flags
Supervisor Ken Reid has asked some fundamental questions about Dulles Rail, and last Friday he proposed (scroll down) a special tax district for Broadlands and Ashburn – -
“The evidence shows that extending Metro into Loudoun County will NOT alleviate traffic congestion; will be used by fewer than 10 percent of all Loudoun Commuters when it opens in Loudoun around 2018; AND will NOT yield a positive economic impact until 2035-2040, yet will begin charging Leesburg homeowners 3.5 cents on top of their County and Town taxes — just at the outset.
Metro will NOT necessarily boost our jobs base and will be competition for funding for schools, public safety and other services. Plus, opting out of rail will save $580 million on the project, and about $1.20 each way for users of the Dulles Toll Road (tolls may go to $4.50 EACH way next year!)
In addition, we now have learned that Loudoun’s share to be part of Metro in 2018 is $34 million a year, of which $11 million would come from gas taxes we pay at the pump to support our commuter and local buses and Leesburg’s transportation needs. All of this money would be lost to Metro if we opt in and Loudoun will be forever beholden to an unelected and unaccountable Metro Board and Metro’s never-ending demands for more cash to maintain its corroding system.
However, many feel having Metro within Loudoun’s borders is a “good thing,” despite the fact a station will be accessible to us via Rt. 28 at the Toll Road — for which Loudoun taxpayers will not have to pay a dime — since Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors elected to ‘opt in’ to Phase 2.
Therefore, one of the fair and necessary conditions for my supporting Metro past Dulles Airport to Ashburn is a tax district in the area which receives the direct benefit from residing within short distance of the proposed stations. Such a tax district means residents of Leesburg are not unfairly footing the bill so Ashburn and Broadlands can see their average 6.8% increase in home values from Metro access.”
Supervisor and business-information publisher Reid has done outstanding service in getting the lamentable facts about Dulles Rail to the public. We have some reservations about his tax-district solution, but that is another topic for another day.
Tax and Regulatory Predators
We have grave fiscal and liberty challenges on the local level, not just at the Federal level.
We face tax and regulatory predators right here in Loudoun County.
These might well be: those working for apparently limitless expansion of local public employment and demanding excessive pay-and-benefit packages; crony capitalists who seek special preferences from local legislators who can’t (or won’t) distinguish between business-friendly and free-market-friendly policies; those business interests that profit from anti-competitive local regulations.
It is important to make the best case against such local tax and regulatory missteps on the merits.
But stopping a Leviathan like Dulles Rail to Loudoun is not purely an intellectual exercise.
The balance of political (lobbying) forces could well be against taxpayers and commuters.
One sovereign remedy — before any final vote on Dulles Rail by the Loudoun supervisorsis the credible threat of primary challenges mounted by respectable candidates against one or more supervisors who would jeopardize the household budgets of Loudoun homeowners and commuters by supporting Dulles Rail.