- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

RICHMOND — Virginia Republicans yesterday accused Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of breaking two key campaign promises: that he would not raise taxes and that he would govern with bipartisan spirit.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith and others said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, was using “strong-arm” tactics to push transportation tax increases through the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

“Governor Kaine wants the people of Virginia to forget — forget that he repeatedly disavowed raising taxes during the campaign,” said Mr. Griffith, Salem Republican. “It’s time for him to decide whether the Kaine administration will be remembered for strong, cooperative leadership or only for strong-arm political tactics.”

Democrats defended Mr. Kaine’s tactic of pressuring lawmakers to get something done on transportation as standard Virginia politics.

Delegate Ward L. Armstrong said being a legislator means being prepared to take pitches “high, hard and inside.”

“Anybody that can’t stand up and defend their principle no matter who’s out on the hustings talking about it needs to pack their bags and go home,” the Henry County Democrat said. “C’mon, kids, this is hardball. You stand up for your position and we’ll stand up for ours, and in the great course of public debate we’ll figure out who’s going to win.”

The rhetoric comes amid budget discussions that center on proposed tax increases for transportation and two years after the legislature approved a record $1.38 billion tax increase.

Eleven lawmakers are privately negotiating the final details of the state’s two-year spending plan, which is fueled with a multibillion-dollar surplus.

Mr. Kaine wants a long-term sustainable source for roads and transit that will help the state’s economy and improve quality of life.

On his side is the Senate, which favors fee and tax increases to raise about $2 billion for transportation over two years.

But the delegates hammering out the budget compromise oppose the tax increases. They say the House proposal to use the surplus and raise the fines on aggressive drivers is sufficient for road improvements.

The Washington Post first reported this past weekend that Mr. Kaine is trying to persuade 26 Republican delegates from Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to vote for higher taxes by targeting their constituents with automated phone calls and campaign-style mailers.

Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said the governor is using the same tactics deployed by anti-tax groups. Mr. Hall said Mr. Kaine has told business and community leaders that there are lawmakers from both parties who could be “urged to be supportive” of a transportation fix.

He balked at critics who say Mr. Kaine is being partisan, calling Mr. Griffith’s speech “mock outrage.”

“We are working with the Republican-led Senate, which has been responsible in stepping forward with a long-term statewide transportation solution,” Mr. Hall said.

During his inaugural address Jan. 14, Mr. Kaine expressed a desire to work with Republican lawmakers but said “cooperation and compromise are necessary for progress.”

Mr. Griffith said the governor’s actions indicate the contrary.

“Governor Kaine does not just want the people of Virginia to forget and ignore his earlier pledges, he now wants to enlist them in an effort to raise their own taxes, making them complicit in the breaking of his promise,” Mr. Griffith said.

At a debate with Republican Jerry W. Kilgore in October, Mr. Kaine said he would not take a “no-tax pledge.”

When Mr. Kilgore said that Mr. Kaine would raise taxes, Mr. Kaine responded: “There you go again, Jerry, just making stuff up.”

However, Mr. Kaine said he would veto any tax increases passed by the legislature if there was no lock on the Transportation Trust Fund that would prevent lawmakers from raiding road funds in tough times, a promise he would have to break if an increase passes this session.

Mr. Hall pointed out the Republican assembly this year did not act on measures that would lock the fund.

He also said if a tax increase is passed, the governor could make sure that the money from the increase is used only for transportation.

Lawmakers technically have until Saturday to come up with a budget but are likely to either extend the session or wait for Mr. Kaine to call them into a special session.

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