- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday outlined a three-pronged transportation plan that would not raise taxes, adding that a new Republican proposal to fix road problems seems faulty.Mr. Kaine, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said the state must restore confidence in the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), amend the state constitution to keep road dollars dedicated solely to road projects and encourage localities to link new development with transportation.”It’s critical,” Mr. Kaine said during a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “That’s what my campaign is going to be about. The transportation issue is key. We can’t really talk about new revenue until we convince people that we’re spending the money we have the right way.”Earlier this week, Northern Virginia Republicans proposed borrowing against the state’s tax on insurance premiums to raise $5 billion for road projects. The lawmakers said as the economy recovers, they expect a $700 million surplus that should be dedicated to paying back the money borrowed from insurance premiums.Mr. Kaine said he welcomes any solutions but that “borrowing is not a panacea.”If the Republican plan adds to the debt in the Transportation Trust Fund, “we have to really think about is that the wise thing to do,” he said.He also said he is open to using any future budget surpluses on transportation.Mr. Kaine said VDOT has been improving in recent years, completing a higher percentage of projects on time and on budget. He has proposed a constitutional amendment to lock up the Transportation Trust Fund so the money can’t be used on non-transportation items.His amendment died in a Senate committee on a tie vote earlier this year, but he said yesterday he believes it will pass next year. Several Republicans have proposed identical bills.Mr. Kaine, 46, also said he will run for governor. “I will be the Democratic nominee next year,” he said.He is expected to be challenged by Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican. Former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, 54, has not ruled out running for the Republican nomination, and has not endorsed Mr. Kilgore, 43.Mr. Kaine said he sees little difference between the two Republicans, but clear differences between himself and Mr. Kilgore.Mr. Kaine supported the bipartisan tax reform package, while Mr. Kilgore didn’t. Mr. Kaine said he would not roll back the sales and cigarette tax increases implemented this year, although Mr. Kilgore has said he would.A former civil rights lawyer and small-business owner, Mr. Kaine also said his professional background differs from that of Mr. Kilgore, whom he called a “career government employee.”Mr. Kaine served on the Richmond City Council from 1994 until 2001, and also served as Richmond mayor. Mr. Kilgore was a state and federal prosecutor and served as the state Secretary of Public Safety before taking office in 2002.Mr. Kaine also called himself a “unifier” and said he will capture Republican votes.If elected governor in November 2005, Mr. Kaine said, he will focus on helping small businesses afford health care and improving the state’s education system.Mr. Kaine said he specifically would want to make it easier and cheaper for small businesses to provide health insurance for their workers. He said he will work on it during next year’s legislative session and that the issue will be on his “permanent to-do list.”“I talk to small businesses all the time and they tell me this is their biggest problem,” he said. “If we keep saying we’ll wait for the federal government to [address] this, we’ll be waiting for a long time.”About 45 million people in the United States are uninsured, and 25 million of those are small-business owners, employees or their family members, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. In Virginia, about 786,000 people are uninsured, and about half are connected to small businesses.”In a one-term governorship, if you’re lucky, you are going to do three things that are big and notable and have a lasting impact on people’s lives,” Mr. Kaine said. “Then you are going to hire great people who hopefully can do a lot of other things.”Mr. Kaine said he also would encourage schools to focus more on excellence instead of competence to help the state remain competitive. “When all of the best thinking about education is about the minimal standards, you start to lose a little bit of the edge that you can have,” he said.• Tim Lemke contributed to this report.

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