- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore understands the value of a taxpayer dollar as evidenced by his recent, laudable, vetoes of several tax-hike schemes that would have engorged the already bloated coffers of the commonwealth by some $30 million annually.

The specific proposals nixed by Mr. Gilmore included an increase in the fee charged for state motor vehicle safety inspections from the current $10 per car to $25 for trucks, $15 for passenger cars and $12 for motorcycles. Service station owners, whose facilities perform the tests in Virginia, argued the fees needed to be raised to defray escalating costs. But Mr. Gilmore rightly rejected these claims, pointing out, in effect, that it’s not the business of the state to mandate profits for private business. Mr. Gilmore also put the kibosh on a proposal that would have allowed area governments to tack on another $1 to motor vehicle decals.

More substantively, Mr. Gilmore also vetoed expanded use of camera-enforcement to catch red-light runners and speeders. This method has grown in popularity because it relieves police of the burden of traffic enforcement and generates tidy profits for both the local government and the private company which provides the equipment and which usually develops the incriminating photos before sending the motorist a piece of “payin’ paper.”

“Using cameras in the open streets raises a serious concern regarding individual freedom,” Mr. Gilmore said. “Experimental” programs in the cities of Fairfax and Alexandria along with the use of photo radar stations on the George Washington Parkway were and are dangerous forays into erecting a “surveillance society” under the rubric of public safety. The bill nixed by the governor would have allowed the use of camera enforcement in Prince William County, the City of Manassas and Manassas Park. Catching traffic scofflaws is certainly important; but it’s not worth sacrificing our civil liberties, or even putting them at risk. It should be the job of police not the unblinking eye of a profit-driven camera to nab red light runners.

Lastly, Mr. Gilmore also said no thanks to a special housing subsidy just for Arlington County government workers. Under the bill proposed by liberal state Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, 3,000 Arlington County bureaucrats would have been eligible for a $3,000 grant towards the purchase/finance of a home in the county. Much to the chagrin of Ms. Whipple, Mr. Gilmore apparently finds the idea of special, taxpayer-subsidized financial help especially for government workers a bit unfair. Taxpayers pay their salaries and now they’re to bankroll housing expenses for government workers as well? Not during Mr. Gilmore’s watch. “I cannot sanction privileged spending of tax dollars to buy houses and condominiums” for people just because they happen to work for the county government, Mr. Gilmore said.

Who says there are no Republican officeholders willing to defend notions of limited government. Mr. Gilmore is to be commended for his respect for taxpayers by his explicit acknowledgment that the money they earn is not the property of Richmond bureaucrats to dispense as they see fit and by his refusal to endorse policies that would erode their rights or give unique privileges to the ruling class (government workers) just because they are “special.”

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