- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Virginia’s three gubernatorial candidates offered disparate ideas to Northern Virginia’s business community about how to fix the state’s transportation problems during a candidate forum yesterday.

Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, a former attorney general, said he supports letting regions around the state hold referenda on whether to raise taxes to pay for transportation, and then let regional boards decide how to spend any such money without interference from Richmond.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he might consider new statewide taxes to boost transportation spending, but only if the General Assembly first guarantees that it will not raid the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to pay for nontransportation items.

And independent H. Russell Potts Jr. promised that he would raise taxes to pay for new transportation projects, repeating his claim that he’s the only candidate willing to be candid about what is needed to end gridlock on highways in Northern Virginia and other parts of the state.

The forum, sponsored by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, was not a debate but instead gave all three candidates equal time to speak and answer questions.

Mr. Kilgore derided Mr. Kaine’s plans as “lame” and said it is best summed up in the phrase “stuck in traffic — get used to it.”

Mr. Kaine said he is convinced that transportation will be the most pressing issue for the next governor and said he would consider all options, but first wants a guarantee that the legislature won’t raid the Transportation Trust Fund. He also said transportation planning must be linked to land-use planning.

Mr. Potts promised to release a detailed transportation plan next week. “The hard, cold truth is we have to make an investment,” said Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester.

Mr. Potts also told the audience that “by far a whole lot of wives and girlfriends are going to be voting for me because I am by far the most moderate candidate on social issues” of the three. Mr. Potts has been critical of his party’s right wing for focusing on “God, guns and gays” rather than transportation, education and health care.

On other topics, Mr. Kilgore drew some derisive laughs from the audience when he insisted during a question-and-answer session that former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, did not leave Virginia with a deficit when he left office.

“It was not a deficit. It was just that the revenue did not come in for the next year [2002] as we had anticipated because of 9/11,” Mr. Kilgore said.

In 2002, Democratic Gov. Mark Warner’s first year in office after succeeding Mr. Gilmore, the state closed what would have been a $3.8 billion deficit by slashing spending and laying off hundreds of state workers.

Mr. Kaine said after the forum that Mr. Kilgore was grandstanding and acting “slimy” when he jumped into the controversy in Herndon over a plan to build with taxpayer funds a center for day laborers, many of whom are illegal aliens.

Mr. Kilgore said he would oppose such funding, while Mr. Kaine said he would support decisions made by local officials.

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