Republican Wyatt B. Durrette charged today that his Democratic rival for governor of Virginia, Gerald L. Baliles, favors programs that would force an increase in state taxes. Baliles responded that Durrette sponsored many tax increase bills while a member of the state legislature.
Durrette raised the matter at their televised debate here in a strong opening statement in which he spent most of his time attacking Baliles for proposing new state programs without saying how much they would cost.
He returned to the theme in his closing remarks just before Baliles spoke.
"How much are you going to pay?" Durrette asked. He said Baliles favors "a program of bigger government, bigger spending that inevitably will lead to higher taxes . . . . His first thought is to look to government." Durrette charged, as he has before, that Baliles is more in tune with the national Democratic Party than with conservative Virginia.
Baliles, in his remarks at the end of the hour-long debate, declared: "I have never introduced a tax increase bill." He then listed seven such bills supported by Durrette.
Durrette, who had no chance to respond on camera, was surprised.
"Very distorted," he fumed as reporters swarmed toward him in a studio at the College of William and Mary law school. Durrette said Baliles had purposely not mentioned tax reductions that he also had sponsored. "That's typical of him."
Durrette's aides rushed to give reporters a list of about 20 bills introduced by Durrette that they said reduced taxes. The Durrette bills that Baliles cited all stem from his six years in the General Assembly as a legislator from Fairfax County. Durrette, who lost bids for state attorney general in 1977 and 1981, is now a Richmond lawyer.
Baliles, a former Virginia attorney general and legislator from the Richmond suburbs, said after the debate that Durrette had proposed tax increases while he had not, adding, "That's the bottom line."
The tangle over taxes came during a program in which the two candidates in the Nov. 5 election sparred over state spending for welfare recipients, education and the mentally ill, as well as infant death rates.
also were asked to restate their viewsEach was asked to restate his view on the teaching of creationism in public schools. A controversy arose this week when Durrette seemed to imply that the biblical theory should be taught and included in textbooks along with the scientific theory of evolution.
"I believe in God . . . . I believe God created the universe," Durrette said. He said he believed that theory should be mentioned in academic studies.
Baliles said he believed that creationism, under state law, can be mentioned but "not be taught" as scientific fact. "I am not in favor of mandatory teaching" of creationism," Baliles said. "My opponent has some explaining to do . . . . "
Baliles was asked why he should be governor because the state, while he was attorney general, had one of its biggest crises in prisons and corrections, including the escape of six death row inmates from Mecklenburg in June 1984. "I've seen the problems up close . . . . I've done my duty," Baliles said. He recalled that prisons have been a continuing problem throughout the terms of several governors, including Republicans.
Durrette, whose campaign has been hampered by internal staff disputes over strategy, was asked how he could serve as governor if he could not control his campaign. He replied that he has "strong, independent-minded" staff members, but he denied that there was any trouble in his campaign.