Gratuitous Debate Review
Sunday, July 17, 2005 :::
There will be debate coverage everywhere today, so I'll just limit myself to looking at one report of the proceedings, from my local scribe, Jeff "Good Copy" Schapiro.
It was a rip-roaring verbal clash, according to Jeff, but intentionally or not, his lede throws a thick slab of red meat to Republican partisans:
Gubernatorial foes Timothy M. Kaine and Jerry W. Kilgore clashed sharply on abortion, the death penalty and state spending yesterday, facing off in a debate that focused on the tax-raising legacy of Gov. Mark R. Warner.
Oooh. Let's keep the focus on Warner's tax-raising legacy. With those inconventient surpluses still rolling in, that legacy looks increasingly ambiguous.
Kaine branded his rival as anti-progress for opposing the broadly supported tax increase won by Warner in 2004. The increase was to shore up cash-strapped state services and save Virginia's highest possible credit rating. Kaine added that eight years of GOP rule threatened the state's finances.
Kilgore countered: "I'm proud of not supporting that tax increase." Referring to the economic uptick that helped produce a $1.2 billion surplus for the state, Kilgore said, "I've been proven right, that the tax increase wasn't necessary."
Taxes are now pro-progress. How rich. But there is a bit of historical revisionism afoot in Kilgore's tax stand. Many of my low-tax friends believe Kilgore was the invisible man during the 2004 tax battle. They still hold that against him. Now, I'm sure Kilgore believes he handled the situation as he thought best, but if you will recall, the biggest names to come out in opposition to the tax hike were George Allen and Doug Wilder (they were the strongest and biggest supporters of a statewide referendum on a tax hike). Where was Jerry? Maybe he was behind the scenes, doing what he could (and to be fair, he was Attorney General at the time, a position not normally associated with state taxing and spending issues). But still, the revisions are interesting, if surprising, to see.
But on we go, marching through abortion, detouring through Potterville, sailing through personality quirks and eventually landing on transportation, taxes and referenda. Kaine maintains (at least for the moment) his steadfast opposition to the referenda concept, hauling out the California bugbear to rattle the crowd. Though I wonder if he would sing the same tune if those 2002 regional tax referenda had passed?
Meanwhile, Kilgore uses the most solid response: trust the people. Yes, trust the people. They are not miserly. They are not pinched, narrow and selfish. If a good case is made for more taxes, they will pay up. If a poor case is made, they will slap their wallets closed. Simple, honest and direct.
We move on to Richmond politics (the cesspool) and feathers are ruffled. Jeff finishes his recap on the matter of the death penalty, where:
...Kilgore, a former prosecutor, repeated that he favors its expansion to include gang leaders who order others to kill. Kaine said a broadened death-penalty law would not deter crime. He added that Kilgore's opposition to additional taxes would have denied millions to law enforcement.
"You can't be tough on crime and be cheap on crime," Kaine said.
I suggest that if the General Assembly had any remote awareness of fiscal responsibility, those millions for law enforcement could have been found without new taxes. Sure, some members would not have been able to shower their districts with money for this that and the other, but they just might have been able to do the Commonwealth a greater service. Maybe next time.
Debate discussion over. Thank heavens.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/17/2005