- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, hours before a midnight deadline, yesterday vetoed a bill that called for a repeal of the state's estate tax and amended bills that would require girls 17 or younger to get the consent of a parent to have an abortion and outlaw a type of late-term abortion procedure, and he vetoed a bill creating a special "Choose Life" license plate.
The tax move is likely to stir some partisan rivalry, but Mr. Warner said he would not go along with the repeal of a tax on the estates of millionaires after death because it would cost Virginia's treasury $140 million. He said he agrees in principle with repealing the estate tax, but that he has been worried since the end of the 2003 session that it would do too much harm to the economy.
"Since that time, subsequent events including the war in Iraq, the increased threat of terrorism in the United States and evidence that the national economy remains stalled have only added to the uncertainty," Mr. Warner said in a statement.
He said doing away with the tax cut would benefit fewer than 1,000 Virginia families. The estate tax was a key component of the Republican legislative agenda this year.
"I generally don't have a problem with [the budget], other than the estate tax," said Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican. "I think there will be a rather large stink about it, but I don't know if there are the votes to override it."
Mr. Callahan guessed that there's a 50-50 chance of the governor being overridden by the General Assembly. Overall, he said, Mr. Warner's actions yesterday made for "a rather sane veto session" in Richmond.
Last year, when the "partial-birth" abortion bill came to his desk, Mr. Warner vetoed it, the only bill for which he used that power in his first session. Lawmakers could not garner the two-thirds votes needed to override the veto.
Sponsored by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William County Republican, it passed the House 76-20 and the Senate 29-11 this time around. Mr. Marshall said that if he and others in the House decided to overrule the governor's proposals, it would be a pretty easy task. In the Senate, he said, there would be a battle because the chamber is closely split between the parties.
Mr. Warner offered 67 amendments to the proposed state budget, guaranteeing a 2.25 percent pay raise for state employees and teachers, among other boosts. The employee-salary increase is scheduled to take effect Nov. 25 for state employees, in December for sheriffs and deputies and other employee groups, and in January for teachers. The cost of the pay raise would be $66 million in the remaining months of fiscal 2004 and $124.8 million in fiscal 2005.
Speaking with a group of state employees in Richmond yesterday, Mr. Warner said he had little doubt that the General Assembly would support his proposal, and that if members didn't, he would be willing to call them back into special session in October. He said that if there's not enough money in the state budget by the fall to finance the raises, he'll make budget cuts elsewhere. The Republican-controlled General Assembly had crafted a similar $62 million increase, but that would be dependent on a turnaround in the state's economy.
In other matters of contention at yesterday's veto session, Mr. Warner vetoed a plan that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to sell license plates with the pro-life message "Choose Life" and amended bills that would require girls 17 or younger to get the consent of a parent to have an abortion and outlaw a type of late-term abortion procedure.
Mr. Warner's amendment would waive a requirement in the parental-consent bill that doctors receive a notarized statement before performing an abortion on a minor, and simplifying the process judges would follow in cases where they allow an abortion instead of parents.
The notary requirement threatened the privacy of girls who seek abortions, Mr. Warner wrote in explaining his amendment.
"Both of these [bills] are intensely popular with the public," said Delegate Richard H. Black, Loudoun County Republican, anticipating a battle that could energize supporters of the bills throughout the state.
He said the parental-notification bill will save the lives of 6,000 unborn children every year.
The license-plate measure passed the House 57-37 and the Senate 25-14, falling short in both chambers of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. Under the measure, proceeds would go to programs that promote adoption, but not to those simultaneously promoting it and advising on abortion. The Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union had promised a court challenge to the license plates.
His amendment to the ban on the late-term procedure abortion opponents call "partial-birth abortion" inserts an exception allowing the procedure for the sake of a woman's health. The Supreme Court has said bills without such provisions are unconstitutional.
Mr. Warner said he supports the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions, but "I am opposed to all post-viability abortions except to protect the mother's life or health."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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