- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

RICHMOND Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III gave his swan song speech to a joint session of the General Assembly last night, saying he fought for the common, taxpaying Virginian and has no regrets about his four years in office.
"The everyday concerns of working men and women have been the everyday concerns of this administration," he said.
Mr. Gilmore leaves office Saturday. By law, Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, cannot run for a consecutive term.
He did not allude to last year's session, a bruising battle in which he often fought with fellow Republicans. Rather, he spoke of uniting those with political differences.
"The lasting legacy of this administration will not be a single policy or program, but the new life that we have breathed into our democracy," said Mr. Gilmore, who became emotional toward the end of the 45-minute speech. "We have replaced the single-party system with a marketplace of ideas in which both parties can compete."
Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner, the first Democrat in eight years to be elected governor, takes office this weekend.
During the upbeat State of the Commonwealth speech, Mr. Gilmore paid tribute to two Virginia State Police troopers who responded to the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
Trooper Michael Middleton and Trooper Myrlin Wimbish received the newly created Governor's Medal of Valor.
Mr. Gilmore made reference to many of his administration's accomplishments and reforms, saying they "empowered" Virginians by giving back their tax dollars and improving education and transportation.
Delegate John A. "Jack" Rollison III, Prince William Republican, had plaudits and criticism for the outgoing governor. He said that while Mr. Gilmore deserves credit for reforms in education, the transportation system has problems that may have grown worse over the last four years, especially in Northern Virginia.
In presenting his final budget last month, Mr. Gilmore said the state could be in the red during the 2003-2004 biennial budget by $2 billion. Already, the state is facing a $1.3 billion shortfall for the remainder of this budget cycle, which ends June 30. The budget shortfall forced Mr. Gilmore to delay the full repeal of the car tax, which is now expected to be phased out by the end of fiscal 2004.
Mr. Gilmore defended his efforts to close the budget gap. He said taking $467 million out of the nearly $1 billion rainy day fund was among the necessary, "difficult decisions now for a better and more flexible future."
"It is a conservative, responsible and balanced budget," he said.
Mr. Gilmore won the governorship in 1997 largely on the promise to eliminate the hated car tax. He seemed to be a rising star in the national Republican Party when President Bush rewarded Mr. Gilmore for helping deliver Virginia in the 2000 presidential election by making him chairman of the Republican National Committee. But after the party lost the two gubernatorial races in November in Virginia and New Jersey Mr. Gilmore resigned the post.
After his speech, Mr. Gilmore told reporters that "it's kind of a hidden blessing" that he can't run again because he will now get to spend more time with his family.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian J. Moran of Alexandria said in his party's response to Mr. Gilmore's speech that the General Assembly must cooperate to ensure the political squabbling of a year ago doesn't happen again.
"Let there be no mistake: Virginia's fiscal situation is very serious, and it will require uncommon discipline and sacrifice to balance the current state budget," Mr. Moran said.
Mr. Moran and state Sen. Louise L. Lucas, Portsmouth Democrat, stressed the need to put Virginians first by assigning partisanship and regional bickering to the back burner.
"It's time to get back to basics with our budget," Ms. Lucas said.
House Minority Leader Franklin P. Hall, Richmond Democrat, said he was disappointed that Mr. Gilmore ignored the specifics of the fiscal crisis the state is in, adding that it will be up to the legislature and Mr. Warner to restore "fiscal sanity" to Virginia.
State Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax Democrat, was more critical.
"We're left picking up the pieces," Ms. Howell said. "We're now focused on putting together the shambles of our state budget."

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