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Va. Voters Promised a Voice on Taxes

Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was equally underwhelmed. Asked about the idea of referendums for taxes, he said, "I will pass on that question."

Kilgore faces Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch in a June 14 primary for the Republican nomination. Advisers to the likely Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, lashed out at the referendum idea.

Sen. John W. Warner and former governor James S. Gilmore III flank fellow Republican Jerry W. Kilgore at a rally. (James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

Candidates on Taxes

The candidates in the Virginia governor's race have laid out various proposals and positions on taxes.

Timothy M. Kaine: The Democratic lieutenant governor proposes a state constitutional amendment allowing local governments to exempt as much as 20 percent of a farm or home's assessment from property taxes.

Jerry W. Kilgore: The Republican candidate and former attorney general proposes constitutional amendments capping annual increases in assessments at 5 percent and requiring referendums on any increases in the sales, gas or income taxes.

George B. Fitch: The mayor of Warrenton who is opposing Kilgore in the June 14 Republican primary pledges never to raise taxes and vows to cut more than $1.5 billion from the state budget.

H. Russell Potts Jr.: The state senator from Winchester who is running as an "independent Republican" in the Nov. 7 general election says he would allow local governments to reinstate the car tax and would consider tax increases to pay for transportation improvements.

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"It's just another example of Jerry Kilgore not wanting to make the tough decisions," said Mo Elleithee, Kaine's communications director. "It's a gimmick that's likely to take us back to the fiscal recklessness that we just spent the last three years fixing."

But others in the Kilgore crowd were more upbeat about his referendum proposal.

James T. Parmelee, an anti-tax activist who led the fight to defeat a Northern Virginia sales tax referendum in 2002, welcomed the idea of greater voter participation in approving tax increases.

"I'd rather have the taxes stopped in the first place" by the legislature, Parmelee said. "But since we've beaten every single referendum so far, it's essentially the same thing. So I'm happy."

The Northern Virginia crowd cheered loudly, especially when Kilgore promised them "the right to vote" on any tax increase.

Michelle Presson, 35, a stay-at-home mom and part-time employee with the Fairfax County Republican Party, said she voted against a sales tax increase in the 2002 referendum and would be happy to cast a ballot on future tax measures.

"Look what happened with those referendums," she said. "We had people saying what they thought we should do, and then Northern Virginia had the opportunity to vote on it and they said, no, we don't need that."

Presson, who brought her 3-year-old daughter, Abby, to the rally, said she was afraid that Kaine would "really mortgage Abby's future. We can go with Kilgore and have a better future for her."

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