- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

RICHMOND — The 1st Congressional District Republican Committee has issued a resolution suggesting that Sen. John H. Chichester, the Senate’s top budget writer, leave the Republican Party for proposing a $2.5 billion tax-increase plan.

Mr. Chichester, Senate president pro tempore and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he had no intention of leaving the party and called the committee’s resolution “embarrassing” to the party and “offensive” to Republican voters.

“The First District Committee is made up of a small minority of Republicans and does not represent the views of all Republicans,” the Fauquier County Republican said in a statement. “The vast majority of Republicans and citizens who lean toward the Republican Party are intelligent and responsible, and they identify themselves with fiscal integrity.”

The committee took action because of what it called a “flip-flop” of the antitax-increase position the senator had taken in the primary election last year, according to Russ Moulton, committee chairman. Mr. Chichester, who has served in the General Assembly for 26 years, easily won a June primary for re-election by a 2-to-1 margin.

“This is the first time the committee has taken action of this magnitude,” Mr. Moulton told The Washington Times yesterday. “His actions are very disingenuous. People were shocked. … We don’t like to speak ill of any Republican, but John has put us in a very, very difficult situation.”

As for Mr. Chichester’s criticism of the committee, Mr. Moulton said his committee is made up of elected Republican leaders in 23 cities and counties stretching from Prince William County to Newport News and has a membership that is representative of the state’s Republicans.

Mr. Moulton said the committee sent its resolution only to Mr. Chichester but the senator never responded.

The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star first reported on Saturday that the committee voted to send Mr. Chichester a resolution that stated, “If Senator Chichester continues his support for such massive tax increases on all Virginians, we regretfully request he switch his affiliation to a more suitable political party for such an agenda.”

The resolution referred to Mr. Chichester’s campaign piece from last year titled, “Leading the fight for lower taxes,” and noted that he had promised voters “repeatedly” that he was opposed to raising taxes. The committee also said a tax increase could cost Republicans seats in the next election.

Mr. Chichester has proposed a plan that would increase sales taxes by 1 percent, raise the gasoline tax by 3.5 cents, fully eliminate the car tax by next year, raise the cigarette tax from 2.5 cents per pack to 35 cents, and reorder income tax deductions and brackets, generating $2.5 billion in new money in 2006.

“Sound fiscal judgment would dictate that we have no choice but to raise revenuetomeet our fiscal obligations,” Mr. Chichester said in defense of his plan, calling himself a “fiscalconservative.” His proposals are awaiting Senate Finance Committee hearings.

Mr. Chichester’s tax plan is much larger than that of Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat.

Mr. Warner’s plan would raise $1 billion in revenue in the next two years by increasing the sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent and the cigarette tax from 2.5 cents per pack to 25 cents. It also would raise the income tax on households that earn more than $100,000 a year, reduce the 4 percent grocery-sales tax to 2.5 percent and will fully phase out the car tax by 2008.

Shawn Smith, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said yesterday that the party is diverse but that the organization is strictly opposed to tax increases.

“It is quite legitimate to point out when campaign promises are broken and to point out these massive tax increases differ from our Republican vision of limited government,” Mr. Smith said.

In December, the Republican State Central Committee denounced Mr. Warner’s tax plan, saying he was “betraying” voters because he had promised on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t raise taxes.

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