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Cuccinelli: Take a look at political contribution tax credit

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Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said Thursday that a tax credit the state should look at cutting is one people can claim for donating to political candidates.

Mr. Cuccinelli has laid out a $1.4 billion tax proposal that is paid for, in part, by eliminating tax exemptions and credits in the state code. He said his goal is to get rid of the bottom 15 percent of tax credits, and possibly more, after convening a bipartisan group to scrutinize their effectiveness.

"You know, there's a ton of 'em," Mr. Cuccinelli said in response to whether he had a "favorite" tax credit as an example of one that would not fit his criteria of having a broader economic impact beyond the credit itself.

"You asked for a favorite, so I won't necessarily speak in economic terms, but you get a tax credit for donating to political candidates. You don't get one at the federal level, but you do at the state level. I mean, it's small — which in my view urges small donors, which is a good thing — but it has nothing to do with growing our economy. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No straight-faced argument could be made with the goal I've stated to keep that one."

The credit is equal to half the contributions made to candidates for state and local offices, capped at $25 for an individual taxpayer or $50 for people filing a joint return.

"And I'm someone who liked that one because I'm a small-donor guy, I'm a grassroots person. I want to engage more people, and if that's a way to do it that's great," Mr. Cuccinelli said. "But if we're going to set up our tax structure with a strict rule that it's there to grow our economy and to fund government to the extent we need, then we need to stick to it, and I gotta give up the thing I like."

A 2011 study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that in 2008 the credit cost the state about $821,000.

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