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Kaine Going Boldly Where Few Dare to Tread

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine seems ready to confront several strong interests.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine seems ready to confront several strong interests. (By Lisa Billings -- Associated Press)

He expects no such help from Toalson or other lobbyists on his plan to give local governments more explicit authority to stop a development if nearby roads are inadequate.

Still, in comments to reporters after his news conference Friday, Kaine gave no sign of giving up the fight before it had begun.

"I do not yet have the confidence that I have the votes to get that passed, but I get more every time I talk" to lawmakers, he said, adding that he has promised several skeptical legislators that he will "make another run at you" soon.

His plan to finance additional transportation construction is even more striking.

At first blush, it might appear modest, because Kaine avoids the politically explosive decision to raise the gas or sales taxes to pay for the improvements he says are needed. But it takes guts to ask lawmakers to approve nearly $1 billion a year in new taxes less than two years after they passed a sales-tax increase under Warner.

Kaine is hoping the type of rhetoric that often comes from the House of Delegates will help pass his proposals. He argues that his plan raises money with "user fees" and that "the fees used to finance the system are directly related to those who use the system."

He also noted that House Transportation Committee Chairman Leo C. Wardrup Jr. (R-Virginia Beach) had submitted a competing plan to pull about $1 billion a year from the state's operating fund to finance transportation improvements.

Although denouncing that idea as damaging to schools, colleges, health care and other government services, Kaine said Wardrup's bill shows a "general agreement on the magnitude" of the transportation problem.

"They both agree," Kaine said of the state House and Senate, "that this is a critical issue for this year."

The next six weeks of the legislative session will show whether that agreement survives or whether Kaine's boldness -- on development and taxes -- sparks another legislative clash that ends in confrontation.

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