Former governor Tim Kaine (D) called on his Republican rivals in the U.S. Senate race to support ending subsidies to oil companies as a way to curb the nation’s skyrocketing debt.

Kaine’s comments came a day after Senate Democrats unveiled a plan to save $21 billion over the next decade by eliminating tax breaks for the nation’s five biggest oil companies.

“We ought to be getting rid of tax subsidies to oil companies,’’ Kaine said in an interview Wednesday. “I believe in that strongly. I hope that George Allen and Jamie Radtke believe in that same proposition.”

Messages to the campaigns of Allen, a former governor and senator, and Radtke, a former tea party leader, were not immediately returned.

Kaine’s campaign said the former Democratic National Committee chairman supports the Senate Democrats’ proposal to eliminate taxpayer subsidies for some the world’s most profitable corporations, including Ex­xon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. But oil companies have said they are being unfairly targeted while other businesses enjoy similar benefits.

Kaine is the only announced Democratic candidate in the race. Rep. Bobby Scott (D) has said he will decide in July whether to run.

Others Republicans running in the GOP primary are Northern Virginia businessman Tim Donner, Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick and Bishop Earl Jackson.

Update, 1:30 p.m.: Radtke responds: “Isn’t that just like a Democrat’s solution to most everything: Tax it? When gasoline is selling at $4 a gallon, that is the last thing we need. Here’s what we need President Obama and Governor Kaine to do: Join me in calling for the lifting of restrictions on drilling, including off Virginia’s coast. We need to drill more, drill now and pay less.”

Update, 10 a.m., 5/12: Allen’s campaign responds: “[The] Obama administration’s counterproductive energy policies are driving up the cost of gas,” Allen spokeswoman Katie Wright said. “Instead of unleashing our American energy resources, Democrats are returning to old schemes that will increase taxes and pass the increased cost to consumers at the pump. Policies that produce less gas at a greater cost only makes sense in Washington. Even some Senate Democrats realize this is a political stunt that will do nothing to bring down the price of gas for struggling families.”

This post has been updated since it was first published.