- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

A pro-business group in Virginia yesterday gave high marks to most of the Republican delegates who last year voted to raise taxes by $1.38 billion.

The Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education ranked each of the 140 state legislators based on his or her support of measures that promoted prosperity and a favorable business climate over the past 10 years.

Each year when the legislative session ends, the group asks 100 business lobbyists to anonymously grade the lawmakers on their business perspectives. The scores were out of 100 possible points, and anyone who scored 75 points or higher is considered a “consistent supporter of pro-business views.”

Several of the Republican delegates who got high scores face primary challenges from anti-tax Republicans. The foundation’s evaluations could help them hold onto their seats at the June 14 primary.

Delegate L. Preston Bryant Jr., Lynchburg Republican who was a leader of the tax-reform effort, ranked No. 1, with a score of 82.

Robert Garber is challenging Mr. Bryant for the Republican nomination. Mr. Bryant has outraised his opponent by more than $120,000. Mr. Garber has raised less than $500, according to the most recent campaign finance statement posted on the Virginia Public Access Project’s Web site, www.vpap.org.

The tax-reform package, passed in May 2004, increased the sales and cigarette taxes and the transaction fee for selling homes. It also reduced some taxes. The tax increase did not affect businesses, and the money raised funded education, health care and public safety.

The foundation’s ranking looked at how each legislator voted on issues ranging from curbing frivolous lawsuits to ending the accelerated sales-tax collection, a practice that requires large businesses to pay sales taxes based on the prior year’s sales.

Seventeen Republican delegates are considered “mavericks” within their party after they broke with the House Republican Caucus to vote in support of the tax increase.

Of those, seven are facing primary challenges next month.

Delegate Edward T. Scott, Culpeper Republican, scored 81 points on the foundation’s ranking. Mr. Scott, who is in his first term, faces a challenge by Mark Jarvis, a former pastor. Mr. Scott has raised $62,191 and Mr. Jarvis has raised $27,457, according to VPAP.

Delegate Joe T. May, Leesburg Republican, scored 79 points. He faces a challenge by Christopher Oprison. Mr. May has raised $240,542, partly because he had been seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor but later dropped out of the race. Mr. Oprison has raised $91,474, according to VPAP.

Delegate Harry J. Parrish, Manassas Republican who authored the tax increase, scored 78 points. Mr. Parrish, who also serves as chairman of the House Finance Committee, is running against Steve Chapman in the primary. Mr. Parrish has raised $126,242 and Mr. Chapman has raised $36,767, according to VPAP.

Delegate Robert D. Orrock Sr., Caroline County Republican, scored 75 points. He faces a challenge by Shaun Kenney. Mr. Orrock has raised $61,072 and Mr. Kenney has raised $38,765, according to VPAP.

Other Republican delegates who voted for the tax increase also scored high points on the ranking. They are William H. Fralin Jr. of Roanoke, who scored an 80; Riley E. Ingram of Hopewell, who scored a 79; S. Chris Jones of Suffolk, who scored a 79; G. Glenn Oder of Newport News, who scored a 78; Daniel W. Marshall III of Danville, who scored a 78; Thomas Davis Rust of Fairfax, who scored a 77; and Robert Tata of Virginia Beach, who scored a 77.

Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican who opposed the tax increases, scored 81 points.

The foundation was founded in 1988 as an independent business association working to strengthen the state’s business environment through the political process, according to its Web site, www.vafree.com. Its membership includes corporations, trade associations and Virginia businessmen and women.

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