- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

The election of Democrat Mark Warner as the new governor of Virginia has taxers and spenders salivating at the prospect of a friendly ear in Richmond. In particular, there is thinly disguised glee among Democrats (and Democratic organs such as The Washington Post) that, with Mr. Warner snugly in office, it will be possible at last to undo the legacy of outgoing Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore by rescinding the final portion of car-tax relief. The economic downturn has not helped matters at all with Virginia expecting a shortfall in tax revenue of approximately $1 billion.
Phasing out the remainder of the car tax, in the phraseology of government-lovers, would "deprive" the state bureaucracy of "funds" it "needs" to carry out the functions it deems "essential." Mr. Gilmore and defeated Republican candidate for governor Mark Earley had it all backwards, of course believing that the people who earn the money in the first place have a higher claim to it than government's "need" and that Virginians were taxed oppressively by the car tax specifically, a tax that frequently amounted to several hundred dollars per year or more for the typical late-model vehicle. During the campaign, Mr. Earley had pledged to continue the scheduled repeal until the car tax was finally put to rest. But Mr. Warner bobbing and weaving most artfully on the matter of his taxing-and-spending views refused to make a similar pledge. Instead, he kept touting himself as a "fiscal conservative," which is especially interesting in view of his previous record and public statements, which have almost reflexively been pro-tax and pro-spend.
Still, there is a silk lining to this sow's ear. The Republican landslide in the Virginia General Assembly will make it extremely difficult for Mr. Warner to pursue a liberal, big-government agenda. That is, if Republicans do not lose their nerve and stick together. Bipartisanship is a wonderful thing, but it should not be a code word for a surrender of principle or for acquiescence in the name of camaraderie.
The newly elected Republican members of the General Assembly were put there by voters to represent a specific governing philosophy not to "work with" Mr. Warner to get his tax increases passed. So long as the Republicans in Richmond don't forget who they are and why they are where they are, Virginians' wallets should be reasonably secure from any designs Mr. Warner might have.


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