- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2007

Anytime the lead editorial in The Washington Post is devoted to praising a piece of legislation introduced by an obscure Republican backbencher from the other side of Virginia, it’s a sign that that Republican is pushing for higher taxes or some other ill-considered idea. Such is the case with Delegate John Welch of Virginia Beach, The Post’s editorial hero (sort of) on Friday morning in a good vs. evil morality play featuring the good guys — Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and the Senate Republicans, who both want higher taxes for transportation, and the designated villains: Republicans in the House of Delegates who don’t think that raising taxes is a good idea.

The editorial eventually got around to giving Mr. Welch a friendly pat on the head for his proposal to increase Virginia gasoline taxes from the current rate of 17.5 cents per gallon to 27.5 cents per gallon — but not before kicking him around a bit by noting that until very recently, he had been the sort of backward-thinking Reaganite skeptic of tax increases who would never get himself invited to the right dinner parties. Mr. Welch, The Post opined, is a “longtime stalwart” of the “fundamentalist, anti-tax wing of the state GOP that controls the Virginia House of Delegates.” (At least they didn’t directly refer to the Republicans as “ayatollahs.”) Mr. Welch, it continued, “was mugged by reality” when he discovered that people are “furious” about gridlock and have become enlightened enough to understand that tax increases are necessary in order to accomplish this.

As for Mr. Welch, the news about his newfound enlightenment is “better late than never.” But the Reaganite Reactionaries continue to stand in the way of social progress, according to The Post: “Unfortunately, Mr. Welch’s clear-eyed proposal was met with icy silence from his stay-at-home Republican colleagues in the House, many of whom have signed no-new-taxes pledges. That proves they lack any serious long-term plan to pay for the billions of dollars in transportation improvements needed around the state.” The Post adds that Republicans who refuse to join the governor and Mr. Welch in supporting higher taxes are “obstructionists” who deserve to be defeated in November. Presumably, the only answer for Republicans is to emulate Sen. John Chichester, who in recent years has been pushing for tax increases that were even larger than those pushed by the state’s Democratic governors.

The Post’s editorialists are doing this because it’s a formula that has worked well for them in recent years: Two years ago, Mr. Warner received fawning press coverage for pushing through a $1.4 billion tax increase; within days of its enactment, we learned that economic growth had made the tax increases unnecessary. Unfortunately, the truth about the “need” for higher taxes is being obscured by deep divisions in the Republican Party — precisely what The Post wants to encourage by highlighting the work of people like Mr. Welch.

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