Never Satisfied: Kaine, Chichester Bang on Their High
Chairs and Wail for More
TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST Mar 14, 2006
Kaine again suggested that the conservative
Republicans who rule the House of Delegates are
blocking a compromise. --Times-Dispatch news story.
With budget negotiations having ground to yet another
impasse, Virginians can expect all the parties
involved to try to depict the others as rigid,
uncompromising ideologues. Some of them are -- but not
those whom Kaine fingered last week.
Let's review some history.
In 2001, budget negotiations broke down over the
car-tax cut. Governor Jim Gilmore and the
Republican-led House want- ed to increase the rollback
of the despised tax from 47.5 percent to 70 percent.
The Senate, led principally by Finance Committee
chairman John Chichester, refused. The House made
several attempts at compromise, submitting four
different budget versions for Chichester's approval.
At the time, Republican Delegate Vince Callahan and
Democratic Delegate Earl Dickinson wrote to
"Over the last five days the House conferees put forth
four specific proposals designed to overcome your
objections to our budget. Each time, we made every
effort to reduce the amount of borrowing, provide
equitable salary increases for all employee groups,
restore the cuts in services to our most vulnerable
citizens, and provide car-tax relief at 70 percent . .
. .The final component of our proposal dealt with the
level of budget restoration to maintain service
levels. As you know, your budget went beyond restoring
budget cuts and proposed new spending not contained in
the previously approved budget. The position of the
House conferees was to maintain services, not to start
or expand new programs."
Chichester barely budged beyond a "compromise" car-tax
rollback of 55 percent, and Gilmore wound up having to
amend the budget himself.
IN 2004, WITH a new Governor (Mark Warner) and a new
Speaker (Bill Howell, who by then had replaced Vance
Wilkins), the House and Senate deadlocked again --
this time over tax hikes. The House initially proposed
no new taxes. Governor Mark Warner wanted to raise
taxes by about $1 billion a year. In a spirit of
compromise, House Republicans offered to meet him
halfway by raising taxes $500 million.
Chichester insisted on jacking up taxes a remarkable
$4 billion. At the time, lofty voices in the state's
high councils were warning that tax increases were
urgently needed to protect the state's bond rating --
and to shore up state finances that had been bled by
weak economic growth. A marathon tug-of-war lasting
115 days ended with capitulation by House Republicans
and a tax hike of $1.4 billion.
Now, for the third time (and with the third Governor)
in six years, budget negotiations have hit a wall. Tim
Kaine practically tripped over himself in his haste to
propose a steep tax hike despite repeated campaign
vows not to do so until the state had secured road
funds against raiding for other purposes. He then
threatened with reprisal Republicans who dared to
voice doubts about the wisdom of his plans.
Chichester, once again, is being Chichester.
Kaine and Chichester are banging on their high chairs
demanding still more revenue despite all this:
(1)THERE IS NO threat to the state's bond rating.
(2)The state enjoys a honking big surplus.
(3)The $61.3-billion budget that included Warner's tax
hikes increased spending 19 percent.
(4)The current budget, at least $75.3 billion, will
increase spending by another 22.8 percent.
(5)Transportation has claimed 12 cents of every new
state dollar in the past decade.
(6)Also in the past decade, public-school enrollment
rose 10 percent while inflation-adjusted direct state
aid to education rose 42 percent.
(7)House Republicans, again, have agreed to raise
another $500 million for transportation.
Having got much of his way during the previous two
battles, Chichester evidently feels secure that
continued pig-headedness will succeed again. He might
be right. If so, it will be interesting to see what
pretext he produces to justify more tax hikes two
And still some persist in suggesting House Republicans
are the uncompromising ideologues on tax issues. Those
who hold that view would do well to review the history
-- and return to planet Earth.Richmond Times Dispatch