- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

All 140 seats in the state Senate and House of Delegates will be on the line when Virginians go to the polls on Tuesday. Voters have a chance to send a powerful message to Gov. Mark Warner: Downsizing bloated bureaucracies is the way to balance the state budget; increasing taxes is not. In the 41st District, which is based in Fairfax County, voters have a unique opportunity: Replacing Delegate Jim Dillard, a liberal Republican who has become an outspoken supporter of tax increases, with challenger Michael Golden, a conservative running as an independent, could have a positive impact on the way politicians in Richmond approach the subject of tax increases.

We would have hoped that the governor would have learned his lesson last year, when he suffered a pair of humiliating political setbacks, as voters decisively rejected his plans to increase sales taxes for transportation in Northern Virginia and Tidewater. But all indications are that Mr. Warner still doesn’t get it. In Richmond, for example, a state tax reform commission has been meeting to discuss ways to overhaul a tax code which hasn’t been changed in nearly 90 years. The problem is that Mr. Warner (who plans to unveil his own tax package after the election) will likely try to use the commission as political cover for tax increases. Mr. Warner urged commission members to consider new taxes in areas such as services and Internet sales. He has also warned legislators that he plans to call a series of special sessions of the General Assembly if they fail to pass tax “reforms” (i.e., increases) acceptable to him when they convene in January.

Unfortunately, the governor seems to have persuaded any number of prominent Republican legislators to do his bidding when it comes to tax hikes. Perhaps no Republican has been a more outspoken proponent of increasing taxes than one of Northern Virginia’s own: Mr. Dillard, chairman of the House Education Committee. Earlier this year, Mr. Dillard blasted his Republican Party colleagues over their support for limited government. Mr. Dillard complained that Virginia’s tax burden is one of the lowest among the 50 states and said he was “concerned about the image of the Republican Party … Many people are already saying that our philosophy is basically slash and burn, that we don’t care about state government.” He warned that if Republicans continue “on the course that we’re presently on, then it’s going to come back and bite us.”

The good news is that, in Mr. Dillard’s district, there is an alternative to voting for such a Republican. Mr. Golden, a conservative (who will caucus with the Republicans in Richmond), is opposed to tax increases and opposed last year’s Northern Virginia sales tax referendum (which lost by a 57-43 margin in the district.) A win by Michael Golden over Mr. Dillard would send yet another clear message on taxes to Mr. Warner and the General Assembly. The Washington Times urges a vote for Michael Golden for the House of Delegates.

Whatever Mr. Dillard’s fate on Tuesday, it is no less important for voters to re-elect some of the top conservative stalwarts from the northern part of the state who have fought hard for fiscal responsibility. The Washington Times salutes Sens. Ken Cuccinelli and Jay O’Brien, Del. David Albo and House Speaker William Howell for their extraordinary leadership and endorses their re-election.

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