Allen, Kaine find common ground at forum

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U.S. Senate candidates George Allen and Tim Kaine found plenty to disagree about on issues such as taxes and health care Thursday in their first joint appearance since Mr. Allen’s Republican primary victory June 12.

But the pair found some areas of consensus as well.

During a “Tech Town Hall” hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council in Reston, the former governors each called for comprehensive reform of the country’s tax system, albeit using markedly different means.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, reiterated his call to end the Bush-era tax cuts for people earning more than $500,000 per year and subsidies for large oil companies, saying the government should shoot for $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue increases to rein in expanding debt and deficits. Long-term, he said, the country needs to look at lower tax rates with a broader base, and “go after every line item” in expenses.

Mr. Allen, a Republican, said he wouldn’t favor tax increases at this point because they would negatively affect small businesses, calling for a “simple, fair, flatter and lower” system, noting that if Congress does not act, taxes will skyrocket on Jan. 1.

“Heck, even if you die your taxes are going to go up next year,” he said.

The event was not a debate, per se — Mr. Kaine and Mr. Allen did not share the stage — but the two men were given separate opportunities to answer virtually identical questions from technology and business panelists.

A concern at the forefront of the Northern Virginia defense and technology sector is the looming threat of “sequestration” — $1.2 trillion of automatic spending cuts, half of it coming from defense, that will kick in Jan. 1 if Congress fails to act.

Both Mr. Kaine and Mr. Allen said Congress must find a way to undo it, though they again appeared to advocate different strategies.

Mr. Kaine said the Department of Defense could better identify cuts than Congress, while Mr. Allen expressed frustration that the cuts, resulting from a congressional “supercommittee” that failed to reach a consensus, were not accompanied by spending caps or a balanced budget requirement — two ideas he has advocated for on the trail and during his time in the U.S. Senate.

While the candidates stayed mainly on topic and directly answered the panelists’ questions, both managed to get in subtle digs at one another.

“If I go into the Senate, I’m going to go in working,” Mr. Kaine said. “I’m a Democrat and I’m a proud Democrat. But I’m going to go in working to partner with Republicans. Not to kick ‘em around or knock their teeth down their whiny throats.”

The line was a reference to Mr. Allen’s oft-cited comment encouraging Republicans at the state GOP convention in 1994 to “enjoy knocking [Democrats’] soft teeth down their whiny throats.”

Mr. Allen noted his work with Democrats like Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on issues like cybersecurity and nanotechnology while in the U.S. Senate, and he dinged Mr. Kaine for supporting Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul.

“If I were in the Senate, I would have voted against it,” Mr. Allen said. “I know my opponent thinks it’s a great achievement, and I want to be the deciding vote to repeal it.”

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