- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

RICHMOND — Republicans yesterday loaded their antitax guns with more ammunition against Gov. Mark Warner, handing out dozens of compact discs featuring the Democrat’s 2001 campaign ads in which he promised voters he would not raise taxes.

Mr. Warner’s ad — circulated throughout the state Capitol yesterday — included phrases such as, “Let me set the record straight: I will not raise taxes,” and “As a fiscal conservative, I know government has to live within its means.”

The distribution of the ads came after Mr. Warner rejected calls this week for a voter referendum on tax increases and accused lawmakers who support it of shirking their responsibility.

His critics also pointed out that Mr. Warner supported the idea of a referendum when he was running in 2001.

In the ad, Mr. Warner tells voters, “I’ve simply said, ‘Let’s trust the people.’ … The citizens of Northern Virginia want the right to vote locally on how to fund transportation. I believe they should have that right.”

Critics said Mr. Warner’s backing of that referendum makes him “a hypocrite” for not supporting the current proposed tax-increase referendum. The transportation referendum failed at the polls by an overwhelming majority in 2002.

Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said the governor’s support of the 2002 transportation referendum is vastly different from the current proposal because this one makes “voters take responsibility for the entire business functions of the state government.”

Meanwhile, leaders of the Republican Party of Virginia blasted Mr. Warner in a press conference yesterday, during which they called for a voter referendum on tax increases.

“Mark Warner’s career of public service is nothing more than a litany of promises made and promises broken,” said Kate Obenshain Griffin, the party’s chairwoman.

Miss Qualls fired back: “It’s surprising they waited this long to demonize the person who has had a responsible tax-reform plan on the table for 100 days. The fact is, his plan cuts taxes for more than two-thirds of Virginians.”

Miss Qualls said Mr. Warner as a candidate vowed not to raise taxes until he learned of the massive budget problems. She said officials from the administration of Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, had projected a $52 million shortfall. However, that shortfall turned out to be about $3.8 billion when Mr. Warner took office in 2002, she said.

Mrs. Griffin warned Mr. Warner that if he doesn’t back down from his tax proposal, party officials will push for a referendum.

“If Mark Warner and some legislators feel strongly that massive tax increases are the answer to [the] government’s problems, then I challenge them to make their case before a jury of Virginians,” she said.

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