- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Virginia lawmakers and Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III are going to the mat over the personal property tax on vehicles the so-called "car tax" which was to have been phased-out entirely after 2002. Mr. Gilmore wants to proceed with the phaseout, as promised while state lawmakers argue that Virginia can "no longer afford" to cut the car tax. The two sides have been sparring for weeks now, but the most recent action taken by the Senate Finance Committee to freeze the tax at its current rate of 4 percent on the assessed value of a vehicle above $20,000 raises the stakes considerably.

"This is the only fiscally responsible course," argued State Sen. John H. Chichester of Stafford. He and other lawmakers claim that Mr. Gilmore's promised phaseout will shortchange other state programs and lead to a budget deficit. "We will stop the car tax phaseout to keep our children and grandchildren from paying 20 years for a benefit we receive now," he told The Washington Post.

The car tax phaseout is estimated to be worth about $1 billion in "lost revenue" to the state, it's true. But the real cost is to Virginia taxpayers many of whom would still "owe" substantial car tax payments in the event the phaseout is not completed as Mr. Gilmore promised. The governor himself has pointed out that many families are still socked with car tax bills of several hundred dollars annually. Remember that everyone who purchases a motor vehicle already pays a fairly exorbitant sales tax, then a title tax, then fees for license and registration plus motor fuels taxes every time the car needs gas. Mr. Gilmore rightly figured people already pay enough taxes for the "privilege" of owning a motor vehicle a necessity in today's society.

"I don't think this is the right time to be imposing new taxes on the people of the commonwealth," Mr. Gilmore said. "This is the time to keep our pledge to the people," he added, referring to election-year promises that he and other state lawmakers made to get rid of the opprobrious car tax. Mr. Gilmore has steadfastly threatened to veto the state budget that does not provide for car tax relief. Virginia taxpayers deserve relief and Mr. Gilmore, to his credit, appears determined to see that they get it.

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