- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Whatever else one can say about Virginia Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, even his harshest detractors will have to acknowledge that he has a great sense of humor and a lot of political chutzpah. How else can one explain his current effort — after nearly four years of working in tandem with Gov. Mark Warner to increase taxes — to run for governor as a champion of tax relief, while depicting Attorney General Jerry Kilgore — the likely Republican nominee and an anti-tax stalwart — as the fiscally irresponsible candidate and foe of the taxpayer?

Mr. Kaine last week said he will make tax relief for homeowners a central theme of his campaign. The former Richmond mayor said he favors a state constitutional amendment permitting local governments to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of a home from real-estate taxes. He would also permit taxpayers to remodel their homes without paying taxes on improvements for 15 years. “I want to fight to protect homeowners,” he now says.

At one level, this is welcome news. Virginia’s beleaguered taxpayers need all the help they can get. The problem is that, by running his campaign on this theme, Mr. Kaine hopes to run away from his real record as Mr. Warner’s partner in fighting for increased taxes.

In 2002, for example, Mr. Kaine supported Mr. Warner’s unsuccessful campaigns in favor of tax-increase referenda for transportation in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Last year, he joined the governor and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester in ramming a $1.38 billion tax increase through the General Assembly, and this year he joined Messrs. Warner and Chichester in fending off the efforts led by Republicans in the House of Delegates to phase out the car tax.

Mr. Kilgore, by contrast, has continually fought to lower taxes. Last year, for example, when Mr. Warner and Senate Republicans were in the process of enacting their tax-increase package, Mr. Kilgore joined Sen. George Allen and former Gov. Doug Wilder in supporting a referendum in which voters could decide whether or not to increase taxes.

Now, Mr. Kilgore, who officially announced his candidacy for governor this week, wants passage of a constitutional amendment barring state lawmakers from increasing income, sales or gasoline taxes without voter approval. The Kaine campaign heeps scorn on the idea, terming Mr. Kilgore’s plan a “gimmick” that would “take us back to the fiscal recklessness that we just spent three years fixing.” Translation: Unlike Messrs. Kaine and Warner, Mr. Kilgore does not equate tax increases with fiscal responsibility.

Unsurprisingly, the Democrats aren’t the only ones heeping scorn on Mr. Kilgore’s eminently reasonable proposal. Republican Sen. Kenneth Stolle of Virginia Beach, who teamed with Messrs. Kaine and Warner to increase taxes, has derided Mr. Kilgore’s idea. It’s just another reminder of what Mr. Kilgore will be up against if he is elected governor.

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