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Follow the Warner tax-plan debate and get a taste of the state of Virginia politics.
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By RICHARD AMRHINE
While a Democratic governor could hardly anticipate smooth sailing given the GOP-controlled legislature he is facing, he might have at least hoped for an intelligent opening response.
Instead, the Virginia Republican Party took the decidedly war-mongering step of digging up ex-Gov. Jim Gilmore, its anti-tax poster boy. When the talk turns to taxes, better bring out the rabid dog. It was truly a choice of function over form.
Gilmore called Warner a liar for proposing to increase the sales tax after promising during his campaign not to raise taxes. Civility was never Gilmore's strong suit. The reality is that the world in which Warner campaigned is very different from the one we live in today. Between terrorism and a severe economic downswing, what was feasible as recently as 30 months ago is no longer the case.
Reasonable people know from experience that campaign promises come with an asterisk, given the circumstances and political minefields that elected officials face.
In fact, Gilmore provided Virginians with a couple of semesters of Lying 101 when he ignored his agreement to let the car-tax repeal slide when sinking economic indicators suggested it would be fiscally unsound to continue.
What Gilmore did--and what Virginia's single-term governor rule facilitates--was to initiate a politically popular program knowing he wouldn't be around for the hard part of actually paying for it.
Some observers suggest that Warner's plan also postpones the bill-paying and will do little to smooth out economic hills and valleys. But at least he acknowledges the need to replace some of the revenues that have been given away.
Gilmore refers to Warner's "billion-dollar" tax plan. Conveniently, Gil- more omits any reminder that he's talking about the combined figures of a two-year budget to make it sound worse.
He says taxes take money out of the economy, out of the pockets of hard-working Virginians. But tax cuts leave less money to put into the pockets of state employees, who have forgotten what a pay raise looks like. Do they not contribute to the economy? Do highway construction workers who are paid though state contracts never buy anything for themselves and their families?