- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Even as Gov. Mark Warner acknowledges that Virginia’s budget picture is improving, Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester appears intent on using the deficit to justify higher taxes. In an interview published Saturday with the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Mr. Chichester hinted that Virginia could lose its AAA bond rating, and (in a move that suggests he’s taken to writing political talking points for the state’s embattled Democratic Party in his spare time), said that the voters will blame the GOP.

“The blame would ride totally on the Republican General Assembly for not facing up to its financial obligations,” Mr. Chichester said, apparently referring to a scenario in which taxes aren’t increased. “It has to rest upon the General Assembly if we lose [the AAA rating] because we’re the ones that have been in control.” Apparently, Mr. Chichester seems to have forgotten the fact that Virginia’s governor happens to be a Democrat. But it’s no mystery why some Republican leaders like Mr. Chichester show such an unseemly haste in blaming their own party for all of the state’s fiscal problems: They want to scare their fellow Republicans into supporting tax increases in the name of balancing the state budget.

The current campaign to do this began in earnest last month, when Mr. Warner met with members of the new, bipartisan commission to modernize Virginia’s tax code. The governor urged members of the panel to set aside partisan concerns and give serious consideration to new taxes on services and Internet sales. The Washington Post noted approvingly that some Republican lawmakers and advisers, not wanting to appear obstructionist, might agree to closing certain “loopholes.”

Among them was Mr. Chichester, who questioned the concept of eliminating car and estate taxes. He was joined by Del. James Dillard, chairman of the House Education Committee, who complained that taxes were too low and that “many people are already saying that our philosophy is basically slash and burn, that we don’t care about state government.” What’s truly odd about these taxing thoughts is that Republicans hold a majority of nearly 2-1 in the General Assembly. Unfortunately, a few Virginia Republicans seem so intent on helping Mr. Warner expand the size of state government that they are quite willing to turn on their own party in the process.

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