By Destiny Brandon
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The country’s leading conservative grassroots organization is voicing its opposition to tax and fee increases before the General Assembly, including Gov. Bob McDonnell’s funding plan for transportation.
Americans for Prosperity, which claims 2.2 million members nationwide, including 85,000 in Virginia, has taken action online and at the state Capitol to try to stop the increases.
Members came to the Capitol from all over the state last week to talk about their legislative priorities.
“Obviously, as a free-market, limited-government group, we are against new taxes,” AFP’s Virginia State Director Audrey Jackson said. “We are all about keeping taxes low so people have more money in their pocket.”
On its website, the group has issued an “action alert” against House Bill 2313, which would fund McDonnell’s bid to solve the state’s transportation problems. The bill would eliminate Virginia’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax but increase the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. It also would raise the registration fees for motor vehicles and trailers.
“While we commend Governor McDonnell for proposing to end the gas tax and prioritizing transportation, we oppose raising registration fees for cars and trucks and oppose the sales tax bump that will result in increased taxes on families and businesses,” AFP said.
Besides opposing higher taxes, the organization supports measures such as House Bill 1430, nicknamed the “Boneta Bill” after Fauquier County farmer Martha Boneta. This bill would expand the definition of agricultural operations to include the sale of products at a farm.
Boneta was involved in a dispute with local government officials who said she didn’t have the proper permits to sell handicrafts and hold events at her farm.
Following the dispute, Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, proposed the “Boneta Bill,” saying it would protect farmers’ property rights.
AFP member Rosemary Bryant wore a “pitchfork patriot” sticker on her lapel in support of Boneta.
“She shouldn’t have to get a permit to have a birthday party for her child; that’s her personal property. It should be her right to throw a party. The whole situation just boggles my mind,” Bryant said.
Fauquier County officials said Boneta needed a permit to hold seasonal events at her farm. The permit would have allowed county staff to confirm that the public had safe access and sufficient parking, as well as adequate restroom facilities.
Supporters of conservative causes came to the AFP rally to learn more about the political process and how they can support like-minded candidates.
“Don’t underestimate what we can do,” said Flint Engleman, president and editor of a conservative blog called “The American Maverick.”
He said that as consumers, conservatives should spend their money with companies and organizations that support conservative causes. His blog compiles a list of such entities.
Also, Engleman said, “Social media has played a core role” in promoting both conservative and liberal causes.
“It’s growing,” he said. “And yes, it’s a major player in politics for sure.”
He encourages people to use Twitter and Facebook to advance the message of free markets and capitalism.
The website for the Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity can be found at americansforprosperity.org/virginia/
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.