WSJ Hammers Va GOP
Virginia's Republican Hams
January 22, 2007
Virginia was once a solidly conservative Republican state, but in recent years it has tilted Democratic. A big reason for the shift is the GOP's recent love affair with higher taxes. In the 1990s Republican Governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore won sweeping victories running as tax cutters. Then in 2004 Richmond Republicans enacted the largest tax increase in the commonwealth's history -- a $1 billion hike in sales and tobacco taxes. Now they are flirting with another tax hike even though the state has a Blue Ridge Mountain-high $900 million budget surplus.
Why? The hot political issue in northern Virginia is traffic congestion. Though the state budget has doubled in 10 years, road building hasn't kept pace with population. "Not a penny of the 2004 tax increase went to fund the state's highest need, roads," fumes GOP state Senator Ken Cucinelli.
The Republican plan would spend $1 billion more for roads and cost-inefficient transit programs and pay for it through borrowing, raising taxes and fees on cars and trucks, and giving local governments authority to raise their assessments.
To be fair, these are nickel and dime fees compared to the $600 million in new taxes that Democratic Governor Tim Kaine is seeking. Democrats in the legislature, who pretend they want to fix the traffic problem, are cynically obstructing any solution so that Republicans take a fall. But if the GOP raises taxes yet again, Mr. Kaine is let off the hook and Republicans forfeit their brand identity as the anti-tax party.
Only 10 years ago the Virginia GOP was riding high after Jim Gilmore was elected Governor on a wildly popular message: "End the Car Tax." Now the Virginia Republicans want to raise car taxes. Have they learned nothing from the party's implosion in Washington?
Anyone think a scolding from the WSJ will make us wake up?