- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

Virginia conservatives lost faith in Richmond Republicans last year when the General Assembly pushed through a historic $1.38 billion tax increase. Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, led the attack, followed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester, a Republican. Not far behind was Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine. So it is with great humor that we learn from Mr. Kaine’s official campaign Web site that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate has a “proven record of cutting taxes.”

Let’s go to the record then. As a Richmond councilman-elect in 1994, Mr. Kaine opposed a decrease in the real-estate tax. When the decrease passed, Mr. Kaine called it “an irresponsible action,” and soon followed with a proposal to return the tax to its previous level. In 2002, Mr. Kaine supported Mr. Warner’s unsuccessful attempts to raise taxes for transportation in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. In addition to last year’s tax increase, he joined Messrs. Warner and Chichester in opposing Republican efforts to phase out the car tax.

As opposed to his record, we’re a little happier with Mr. Kaine’s tax-cutting proposals. He has made tax relief for homeowners a central theme of his campaign and favors a state constitutional amendment permitting local governments to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of their home from real-estate taxes. As welcome as this is, it does little to comfort Virginia’s beleaguered taxpayers, who justifiably fear further tax increases under a Kaine administration.

In contrast, Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore opposed last year’s tax increase. He proposes a constitutional amendment barring state lawmakers from increasing income, sales or gasoline taxes without voter approval. Furthermore, Mr. Kilgore has pledged to veto any tax increase that might reach his desk and has said that he would cut the estate tax.

Messrs. Warner and Kaine like to say that their tax increase restored the state’s fiscal health, as if it was the only available option. But when revenues were projected to be $1 billion higher than expected, instead of returning to Virginians their tax-dollars, further spending projects were the end result. This is Virginia’s underlying spending problem: A two-decade long windfall for social welfare programs and pork projects have made it impossible to pay for necessary expenditures like much-needed transportation improvements without raising taxes. Buttressed by tax-happy Republicans, what’s to keep Mr. Kaine from altering the Warner record?

Fiscal discipline begins with tax discipline. Mr. Kilgore understands that.

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