- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2001

The naysayers denied it could be done, but Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore has found a way to keep his promise to cut the car tax without throwing the budget of the Commonwealth into the red. And hes even managed to find money for a teacher pay raise of between 3.5 percent and 3.7 percent.
The money was found via an artifice not often employed in these days of wantonly spending other peoples money: Mr. Gilmore methodically went through the state budget and found fat to trim or excess that could be tapped to finance the ongoing repeal of the car tax, as well as provide those raises for Virginia educators. For example, the Virginia Retirement System, which finances pensions for state workers, was found to have a massive surplus. Its assets have grown from $16 billion just five years ago to $37 billion today. Accordingly, Mr. Gilmore discovered that contributions made by state and local governments into the system could be substantially reduced without impinging on the solvency of the program. Total estimated savings $125 million. That all by itself took a nice bite out of the $421 million in cuts Mr. Gilmore needed to come up with in order to keep his budget balanced and his promises intact. The remaining savings will come from "belt-tightening" at more than 100 state-level agencies.
Still, the critics are not placated. It seems they cant be, either no matter what Mr. Gilmore does, short of acceding to their demands and reneging on his promise to continue the phase-out of the car tax. State Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, told The Washington Post that Mr. Gilmores cost-cutting amendments are "desperate." Fairfax County Supervisor Katherine K. Hanley likewise cast aspersions, telling The Post, "The Virginia Retirement System has already adjusted their rates twice … this seems to be a bookkeeping adjustment …" And the teachers union, despite the prospect of a not-insubstantial raise, was also not appreciative. The Richmond lobbyist for the Virginia Education Association said Mr. Gilmores proposed raise "fell short of addressing other needs" and that the amendments offered by Mr. Gilmore arent "so sweet that you have to grasp" them. Fairfax teachers will continue with their stated threat to "work to the rule" that is, they will stay not one minute longer, nor come in a moment earlier, or do a jot more work than specifically required of them as per their contracts, and so on the raise notwithstanding. There will be no after-school tutoring, field trips or meetings that upset the rigid 9-5 time clock. Most workers who enjoy a fully paid summer vacation with no work would be pretty happy with a 3.5 percent to 3.7 raise on top of that.
In any event, the fact is that Mr. Gilmore has once more confounded his critics on both sides of the aisle, who said it just couldnt be done. When lawmakers return on April 4 to consider his latest attempt to provide state services, fund needed programs and remain true to his pledge to Virginia taxpayers, the least they should do is cut the governor as much slack as he has taxpayers and approve his revised budget.

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