Kaine And GOP At Odds on Shortfall
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
RICHMOND, May 13 -- As Gov. Timothy M. Kaine kicked off a statewide tour Tuesday to sell Virginians on tax increases, House Republican leaders accused him of exaggerating claims that the state will fall nearly $3 billion short of what is needed to maintain its roads and bridges.
House Republicans vowed to kill Kaine's proposal and said the governor, a Democrat, is painting an overly gloomy picture of the state's needs, using a snapshot of today's sluggish economy to predict how much money will be needed over the next six years.
"The numbers are questionable at best," said House Majority Whip M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights). "It creates a panic scenario."
But Kaine and his administration defended the forecast, which reveals a shortfall in funds for road and bridge maintenance that will reach nearly $3 billion over the next six years. The forecast employed a five-year-old method approved and used by the General Assembly for the state budget.
Kaine called the GOP argument "bogus" and said he is accustomed to Republicans calling his financial forecasts either optimistic or pessimistic "depending on what the talking point of the day is."
Kaine unveiled a proposal Monday to raise $1.1 billion a year by increasing taxes on new-car sales and vehicle registration fees. The plan includes a one-cent sales tax increase in the state's two most congested areas, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
The General Assembly will return to Richmond next month for a special session on transportation. Kaine traveled Tuesday night to Woodbridge to test the proposal on a town-hall audience.
"I know I don't have to say to anyone in Prince William that transportation is a challenge," Kaine told about 160 people in a county government building.
"What's difficult is getting legislators to come together and solve the problem," Kaine said. "It's past the time for us to act."
The meeting followed a question-and-answer format. One questioner wanted to know whether Kaine had considered making money available by cutting spending for other purposes. The governor was also asked why no gas tax increase has been proposed.
"I said no to a gas tax because of where gas prices are," Kaine replied.
"Gas is like food and medicine," he said. "It's a necessity, and the best thing to do is meet our needs without a tax."