- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

Virginia Sen. John W. Warner endorsed Senate candidate George F. Allen's education tax-credit plan yesterday, even saying he would introduce the plan himself if Mr. Allen fails to unseat incumbent Sen. Charles S. Robb in the Nov. 7 election.
Ninety minutes before, Mr. Robb, a Democrat, held his own news conference with Northern Virginia school board members at a Fairfax County school, calling the plan a tax plan, not an education plan, and saying it would divert funds from public spending on education.
What's clear is both campaigns think the issue is the key to victory, and both candidates say the plans on education illustrate the type of lawmaker each would be.
"When we were both governors, we had a very different approach. I wanted to immediately begin putting more money into education right upfront to try to raise the per-pupil expenditure, to try to raise teacher salaries," Mr. Robb said. "My opponent took just the opposite approach. He was more interested, once again, in a huge tax cut."
Mr. Allen, though, said the choice in this race isn't tax cuts or education it's education through tax cuts.
"My opponent trusts Washington. He says 'Send it to Washington.' Who knows what it will be spent on in Washington? But the point is, he trusts Washington. I trust parents," said Mr. Allen, a Republican, at his news conference with Mr. Warner on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Allen's plan would allow parents to claim a tax credit for up to $1,000 per child, up to two children, for non-tuition education expenses like books, school supplies, computers or tutors. A credit comes off the bottom line on taxes, so someone who pays $2,000 in taxes and claims a credit of $500 would pay $1,500 under Mr. Allen's plan.
But Mr. Robb said the plan really helps the rich, not the poor, because poor families often don't earn enough to pay federal income taxes.
In response, Mr. Allen said he's sticking to his original proposal of offering the plan only as a tax credit. But he said he would welcome others' additions and alterations that would allow lower-income families to benefit as well. And Mr. Warner said he would probably propose just such an amendment.
"I've worked with Chuck Robb. And I bet in his heart of hearts he'd like to help families, the same way George Allen is proposing. But he's trapped. He's trapped within the framework of his party's philosophy to bolt the door against Republicans' efforts to give more discretion to families. He had nowhere else to go but to come out and find some basis on which to oppose the Allen initiative," Mr. Warner said.
While Mr. Allen had Mr. Warner stand with him, Mr. Robb was joined by Democratic school board members from Northern Virginia, who said tax money is best used by government.
"We've got folks in government who think the best thing is to give it back to people one by one by one," said Libby Garvey, chairman of the Arlington School Board. "What am I supposed to do when all of my individual parents get back a little bit of money from the state? How am I supposed to provide schools with that?"
Mr. Robb has proposed a legislative package of smaller class sizes, modernized schools, teacher training and more police officers in schools. Mr. Allen counters that his total school agenda also includes smaller classes and building schools. But for now, most of the discussion revolves around Mr. Allen's tax-credit proposal.
Mr. Warner's support for the plan is a coup for Mr. Allen.
Both Mr. Allen and Mr. Robb have at times held Mr. Warner up as the gold standard for what a Virginia lawmaker should be doing. And Mr. Warner has been described as the most popular politician in the state, with a broad appeal to Virginians in the middle of the political spectrum.
His endorsement of the plan also helps Mr. Allen combat Mr. Robb's charge that the bill has no chance of passing Congress.

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