How do these two politicians come up with such different numbers?

Relax, manhattan. Factual question ahead.

I live in Fairfax County, Virginia. Lately I’ve been bombarded with flyers telling me why I should vote for one guy or another for State Senate, the election for which is next Tuesday. I was reading through a few of them and found something interesting that I thought the Teeming Millions[sup]TM[/sup] might be able to help me with.

Ken Cuccunelli, the Republican candidate, claims in one of his flyers that “Fairfax County taxpayers get back just 46 cents on every dollar we send to Richmond.” All fine and dandy.

His opponent, Jim Mitchell, sees things a bit differently. According to one of his flyers, “he’ll fight to make sure that Fairfax County receives more than the current 20 cents bak on every tax dollar we send to Richmond.”

My first inclination is that one (or both) of these guys is a sleazebag liar. My second thought is that neither of them is lying per se, but are arriving at different numbers because they use different formulae on the same information.

Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

Not me. Have you asked them?

The first guy specifies “taxpayers”, and the second doesn’t. That could make a difference.

AndrewT - I’ve thought of that. Unfortunately, it seems that Jim Mitchell doesn’t want anyone contacting him except by snail mail. None of his mailings have a website, email, or phone number. If I’m going to ask this question of the candidates, I’d like to ask both sides. It’s only fair.

SmackFu - I’m inclined to agree, except the first says “taxpayers”, the second says “tax dollars.”

Whoever the incumbant is has probably avoided reporting his bribes as income and has gotten legislation passed to give himself a loophole, while the challenger probably has never paid taxes either because he’s never made any money. So neither really knows anything about the tax matter.

So the question isn’t where their got that figure–each pulled it out their backside–but which sleazebag you want to vote for.

If you want to vote for Ken, then you can based upon how much rosier his view is compared to Jim’s number and Ken doesn’t want to rock the boat as much as Jim anyway.

If on the other hand you like Jim(or dislike him less), vote Jim. He may be the bigger bullshitter which can be a very nice attribute to have in a state legislature.

My personal choice would be Jim. He seems like he wants more of the waste and corruption at the county level, where I might get a piece of the action.

I thought it would be easy to do the numbers. I was wrong.

My numbers: (all the links are PDFs)

A) From the Fairfax County side, Revenue from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Government
FY 2002 Actual revenue from the Commonwealth was: $695,625,257

B) From the Commonwealth of Virginia side, Dept. of Taxation Annual Report for FY 2002
Fairfax County income tax liability was: $1,728,145,447

C) Also in that report, Fairfax had a 1% local tax which equalled $128,450,315 for that FY. So you can figure that:
3.5% state tax was: $449,576,102.

D) Also, $52,110,154 recordation tax, whatever that is.

A/(B+C+D) = 31 cents per dollar.

There might be more to include on the taxation side, which would drive the final number down. The money from the Commonwealth seems pretty set though.

To the original question, I have a guess why the numbers are so different. The state has no particular interest in classifying revenue by county, especially for the items it doesn’t pay it out proportionally. Since the figures are not easy to get, it’s easy to leave off entire classes of taxation. For instance, I omitted the state sales tax on watercraft and airplanes. :slight_smile:

Ah, so it’s as I expected. They’re both sleazebag liars. Thanks, SmackFu.

That could be true, but it’s also possible that the two guys just pulled their starting numbers from different places in the budget. One may be leaving out some category of tax revenue, or missing some category of money coming back.

In other words, rather than liars, they may just be crummy accountants. Vote for the incompetent fool of your choice.:wink:

Statisticians are notorious for making the numbers say what they want them to say. It all depends on the approach you take and the wording used. Take any or all statistics with a grain of salt.
“Anyone can make up statistics. 14% of people know that.” - Homer Simpson

Figures don’t lie but liars figure.