- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Anti-tax sentiment is alive and well in Virginia, where political pressure has made it necessary for both Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates to state their support for the full repeal of Virginia's personal property tax on motor vehicles - known less formally as the car tax.
Republican candidate Mark L. Earley promised early on to stay the course pioneered by current Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, who rode the car tax issue to the state's highest office, and who has steadfastly refused to renege on the promise he made to voters, despite often-caustic opposition from Democrats (as well as a few Republicans).
Under the 1998 graduated repeal engineered by Mr. Gilmore, the car tax was to be incrementally rescinded over a five-year period. The last portion of the phase-out has been the subject of tumultuous political debate, with many Virginia lawmakers arguing the state can "no longer afford" to continue the repeal due to budgetary shortfalls. Most of these politicos, of course, opposed the car tax repeal from the moment it was proposed by Mr. Gilmore and continue to wield it as cudgel against their foes - these would be Messrs. Gilmore and Earley.
However, it has also become unpalatable for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Warner to indicate any opposition to repeal of the car tax - his previous record of being pro-tax notwithstanding. On Thursday of last week, for example, Warner press secretary Mo Elleithee said, "Mark Warner will repeal the car tax … " and went on to say soothing things about the candidate's commitment to protecting taxpayers from rapacious revenuers.
That sounds pretty good. But there was a Clinton Clause in Mr. Warner's official stance. His press secretary added the following caveat: "… whether or not it's next year, he's going to take a look at the books first and see if the economy will allow him to do it by then." Translation: Mr. Warner will appear anti-car-tax for as long as it takes to get elected; once in office, though, it's a better than fair bet that his views will "mature" and "grow," so to speak to accommodate an altogether different position. The needs of the state (and its bloated bureaucracy) will come ahead of the needs of Virginia taxpayers. Doubt that? Consider that, as reported by this newspaper's Ellen Sorokin and others, Mr. Warner has said on many occasions prior to his newfound support of car-tax repeal, that he would "delay phasing out the tax to increase teacher salaries, among other things." Those "other things" being, of course, the endless needs of government and its conga line of supplicants and hangers-on.
Since November is far enough away to give Mr. Warner all the time he needs to become an election-year tax cutter, it is hoped voters will have longer memories - and sharper wits - than Mr. Warner is counting on.

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