- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

Virginia Republicans say they arent worried about the brouhaha surrounding the General Assemblys inability to work out a compromise budget — they will run and win on the car tax in Novembers elections.
"If you are Dave Albo, whose constituents just pay and pay and pay and they dont get all these special things from the government, then you are the hero for not backing down on the full implementation of the car tax at 70 percent," said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican and a staunch supporter of the car-tax rebate.
All 100 House seats are up for election in November, and political consultants say a message like Mr. Albos will look great on glossy campaign brochures, particularly in areas like Northern Virginia, where car values and tax rates are higher than many areas of the state but state services arent as fundamental.
That bucks conventional wisdom, which holds that by adjourning Wednesday when a budget agreement couldnt be reached, Republicans — who are in the majority for the first time ever — have failed at governing.
Senate Democrats and most Senate Republicans proposed breaking the governors schedule by offering a 55 percent car-tax rebate this year. House Republicans almost uniformly held firm on the scheduled 70 percent rebate, as did a handful of House Democrats.
Delegates and campaign strategists werent sure if voting against 70 percent will hurt incumbents, but Republican delegates and candidates say keeping the car-tax rebate on schedule is a winner.
Two Republican hopefuls — Steve Whitener, who is running for a newly drawn seat in Loudoun County, and Buck Waters, who is running for a new Prince William County seat — said promising to keep the car-tax rebate on schedule is an issue they will gladly run on.
Republican delegates say the issue carried them to victory in 1997 and 1999.
"When you go back and say that was what I promised, its easy to turn around and say I delivered," one campaign consultant said.
But Democrats say that doesnt ring true.
"I think most people have seen this not as a principle, but obsession," said Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat, who voted for 70 percent rebate proposals early on, but this week also voted for several proposals that offered a smaller tax rebate.
Republicans are hoping to paint the breakdown in amending the two-year budget not as a intraparty squabble, but as a dispute between the House and Senate, and they hope to lay blame on the 18 Democrats who voted consistently for a proposal that was less than 70 percent.
But Mary Broz, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the blame covers all Republicans.
"This was a collective failure by the Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and of the governor, his lieutenant governor and the attorney general," she said.
The attorney general and lieutenant governor are running against each other for the Republican nomination for governor, and most politicians and campaigners agreed the budget impasse may have a greater effect on the general election for governor than on any other race.
Mo Elleithee, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner, said the failure to reach a budget accord "is a badge of shame for anyone who was involved."
"Without budget amendments, are going to be faced with some very tough choices because of the inability of this administration to get the job done. Thats a point were going to be highlighting throughout this campaign," he said.
Doug Blais, a campaign spokesman for Attorney General Mark L. Earley, said its too early to tell what the budget impasse will mean.
"Voters will understand when legislators have honest differences of opinion on the budget, but they will not have any patience with legislators who adopt positions solely to prevent a budget," he said.


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