- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2006

Democrats have long been labeled the tax-and-spend party, and on Friday the governor of Virginia showed why.

All week long Richmond was abuzz about the “additional” money the governor wants to spend on education, health care and transportation woes in the commonwealth. The governor also threw in a tax-cutting proposal that would aid low-income families. He even warmed the cockles of environmentalists’ hearts, promising to spend an extra $250 million on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. It was all part of the walkup to what happened Friday, when the governor briefed state lawmakers on his spending package. But what the governor did not articulate in his carrot-stick proposal is more important than what he did say.

Gov. Tim Kaine delivered his 2007 budget proposal to the tax and appropriations committees in the Virginia General Assembly, saying he is willing to spend $500 million for transportation projects, including new rail cars for Metro, which services Northern Virginia, and more funds for the Virginia Rail Express, the commuter line that runs from Fredericksburg to Washington. The governor also wants to spend $350 million on other roads projects, including the Capital Beltway. Mr. Kaine knows the money will not solve the gridlock in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area, and he conceded as much. The governor even admitted that many of the proposed appropriations are a one-time infusion of cash.

What the governor has not done is detailed to Virginians how he plans to finance the remainder of the state’s transportation needs — though he didn’t leave them totally in the blind.

Indeed, the sticking point is the same as it was in the last legislative session. Mr. Kaine says that in order to meet the state’s transportation needs the General Assembly is going to have to raise new revenue.

Now, even minus the specifics, we know what that means. Mr. Kaine wants to tax Virginians so the state can spend more money.

The governor says he’s not particular about the sources of the new revenue — tax increases, fee increases, fine increases or increases that combine all three sources. Those are his expectations.

Richmond has been down this road before. In fact, the legislature quarreled noisily last session over transportation funding because the proposal included tax increases. House Republicans, fortunately, held the line on taxes, and Virginians are better off because of it.

There’s no doubt that Mr. Kaine is playing to the traditional Democratic Party’s constituencies — for good measure, his budget plan includes raises for teachers and nursing-school faculty. Yet we are on the same page as the governor on a key transportation aspect. As he said Friday, “While we may disagree over how to fund transportation, there is unanimous agreement that we need sustainable, long-term funding for our transportation system.”

We respectfully agree to disagree on transportation funding sources. New taxes now. Higher taxes later. Still higher taxes down the road. That’s no way to run a transportation system.

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