Monday, August 11, 2008

Cluck, cluck, cluck

Three stories caught my eye today - each about a different, but perhaps overlapping political/economic trend affecting the Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
Cluck No. 1
According to the Tax Foundation, the state/local tax burden on Virginian's has crept up to its highest level in about 30 years. Virginia currently ranks 18th out of 50, which according to the foundation, places the state firmly in the middle. In 1993 the commonwealth had its lowest ranking at 35. New Jersey is No. 1 followed by New York. On average, Americans pay 9.7% of income in state/local taxes, in Virginia it is 9.8%.
Republicans will probably squawk about the new numbers and attempt to use them for political gain against Mark Warner and in next year's House of Delegates and gubernatorial races. But, their cackling will probably sound hollow considering that Virginia ranks high in per capita wealth, the state gets high marks for sound fiscal management, and enjoys a record for keeping the tax burden fairly stable. Some state's have wild swings from year to year depending on the economy. 
Tax burdens can vary widely by locality with huge differences in land values and tax rates. I suspect the tax burden in most of the Valley of Virginia is among the lowest in the commonwealth.
Cluck No. 2
The value of Virginia farmland far exceeds the national average and is the highest among neighboring states. The average agricultural acre in Virginia is valued at $5,900 (includes improvements) while the U.S. average is $2,350. In North Carolina it is $4,800 and West Virginia lags the region at $2,700. Various factors can influence values which can differ widely in different parts of the state. Some acres are simply better for crops or pasture than other acres. Analysts also point to high crop prices, favorable tax rates (land use taxation in Virginia), and lower interest rates. Prices are also driven up by development - in Virginia's northern Piedmont and Chesapeake Bay regions and parts of the Valley growth is certainly impacting values. Pretty basic supply and demand - eggs get more expensive when the hens aren't laying.
Cluck No. 3
The Rockingham County Fair is going green with recycling receptacles for aluminum and plastic, a "Green Tent" with recycling displays and information, and just outside of gate 4, the nonprofit Computer Recycling of Virginia will accept computers and small electronics for free. TVs and larger appliances will not be accepted. Recycling is one the easiest things the average family can do to protect the environment - the fair's emphasis on going green is something to crow about. Good job Rockingham County Fair! 

No comments: