- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2003

Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore on Friday proposed a $1 billion bond issue for public schools and sharing state revenue with localities in outlining his tax reform ideas two months before the General Assembly takes up the issue.

In a speech prepared for the Peninsula Area Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Kilgore also proposed shoring up the state’s depleted “rainy day” reserve fund in modernizing the World War I-era tax code without increasing the net burden on taxpayers.

The presumptive 2005 Republican nominee for governor held to the same theme of no increases in revenues that Republican House Speaker William J. Howell advocated two weeks ago in a speech to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Those ideas will compete with some of the recommendations emerging from a Republican-led legislative panel that has studied tax reform since July, including extending the state sales tax to cover services as well as merchandise.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, is expected to disclose his tax-reform plan within the next 10 days.

Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Howell both advocated a way for the state to share growth in revenue with localities struggling to meet basic needs largely by taxing real estate and replenishing the state’s reserve fund, which has dwindled to about $130 million from about $900 million two years ago.

The state risks having its superlative AAA bond rating downgraded for the first time by Moody’s Investors Service if it cannot replenish its rainy-day fund.

Like Mr. Howell, Mr. Kilgore was adamant that the state not take in more money through taxes.

“It is mind-boggling that there are people who think that the immediate needs of government are more immediate than the needs of the people government is meant to serve,” according to a copy of Mr. Kilgore’s speech.

Unlike Mr. Howell, however, Mr. Kilgore specifically called for the state to back $1 billion in bonds to help localities build and renovate public schools.

“This will ease the fiscal pressures faced by localities and demonstrate the state’s commitment to ensuring our children have the best learning environment available,” according to the text of his remarks.

And while he hasn’t announced his candidacy yet, Mr. Kilgore already has received an endorsement.

U.S. Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte on Friday announced his support for Mr. Kilgore’s presumed run for governor in 2005.

The Republican from Roanoke said he is the first member of Virginia’s congressional delegation to publicly call on the attorney general to run for governor.

In a written release, Mr. Goodlatte said he offers his support to Mr. Kilgore’s efforts and looks forward to “playing an active role in his upcoming campaign.”

mThat’s politics

Betty Currie attracted national attention in 1998 when, as President Bill Clinton’s personal secretary, she was subpoenaed by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr during the investigation of the president’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Now Miss Currie is in the middle of a small controversy in Maryland.

State Sen. Roy Dyson of St. Mary’s County and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are battling over Mr. Dyson’s recommendation that Miss Currie be appointed to fill a vacancy on the College of Southern Maryland’s board of trustees.

Mr. Dyson said that at the request of several prominent black officials, he asked in a letter sent to Mr. Ehrlich three months ago that Miss Currie, who lives in St. Mary’s County, be nominated to the board.

The Democratic senator said he was told recently by an administration official that he should come up with another recommendation because Mr. Ehrlich would not appoint Miss Currie.

“I was basically told to send up another black woman,” Mr. Dyson said.

Governors usually defer to a legislative practice known as “local courtesy” when making appointments to local boards and commissions, going along with recommendations from local senators.

Democrats claim that Mr. Ehrlich, who voted to impeach Mr. Clinton when he was in Congress, is penalizing Miss Currie for her association with the former president.

“It appears she is being punished for whatever Clinton did,” Mr. Dyson said.

“He is trying to score brownie points with the right wing … by saying, ‘Oh, boy, I am standing up to the Clintons,’” said Isiah Leggett, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party.

Lawrence J. Hogan, the governor’s appointments secretary, said the governor’s refusal to appoint Miss Currie has more to do with Mr. Dyson than with Miss Currie.

He noted that the Southern Maryland senator voted against the governor on two major issues last session — Mr. Ehrlich’s slot-machine bill and his appointment of Lynn Buhl as environmental secretary.

Mr. Dyson also opposes Mr. Ehrlich’s nomination of Thomas F. McKay as a member of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission and has threatened to block the nomination when it comes before the legislature next year.

Mr. McKay, a Republican, is president of the St. Mary’s Board of Commissioners and has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Mr. Dyson for the state Senate in 2006.

“When someone is blatantly playing games with the governor, we are under no obligation to consider their recommendation,” Mr. Hogan said. “It is a courtesy, and sometimes courtesy can be revoked.”

mHanley steps aside

Katherine K. Hanley, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, will not challenge U.S. Rep. James P. Moran in the Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District.

Instead, Mrs. Hanley said Thursday that she will leave public life in Northern Virginia, where she has been a dominating presence for two decades.

Former Alexandria Mayor Kerry J. Donley, who has been picked by Gov. Mark Warner to be the state party’s new chairman, said that Mrs. Hanley’s decision “paves the way for Jim Moran’s re-election.”

Mrs. Hanley said beating Mr. Moran would have taken an all-out campaign effort, one she was unwilling to make.

“I know how to win races. I know how to win this one,” she said. “But it requires a total commitment of time — more hours in the day than you have. I’m unable to make that commitment.”

Mrs. Hanley said she will spend more time with her husband, Edward, who recently had colon surgery, and their two grown children.

mRolle steps in

Frederick County, Md., State’s Attorney Scott L. Rolle will challenge U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett for the 6th District seat in the March 2 Republican primary.

The 42-year-old prosecutor, who shares many of Mr. Bartlett’s conservative views, formally kicked off his campaign at a rally Wednesday in Frederick, his hometown.

Mr. Bartlett enjoys the public backing of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. but Mr. Rolle portrayed himself as a more loyal party member than his 77-year-old opponent.

“We are the future of the party and this is going to be an energetic and enthusiastic campaign designed to not only bring more effective representation to the district, but also to attract new people to the party,” Mr. Rolle said.

Mr. Bartlett, a six-term incumbent from Buckeystown, announced earlier this year that he would run for re-election in the heavily Republican district, which spans Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, as well as the northern halves of Baltimore and Harford counties.

No Democrats have filed for the seat. The filing deadline is Dec. 22.

mAll bets are off

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. reaffirmed his willingness to compromise on slot machines, saying negotiations appear to be headed toward putting slots at only two racetracks and also possibly at two off-track locations.

The governor’s plan at the 2002 legislative session called for putting 3,500 slot machines at each of three existing racetracks — Pimlico, Laurel Park and Rosecroft — and up to 1,000 machines in Allegany County if a track is built there. The plan was killed in the House of Delegates in the face of opposition from Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

Mr. Curran also predicted that legal slots will eventually lead to other forms of casino gambling.

This column is based on wire service reports.


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