Jim Gilmore at TMG
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 :::
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore addressed the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition at the Bull & Bear Club this morning. It's easy to see why so many conservatives still like the man -- he's forceful, articulate and yes, largely correct.
After running through his current bio -- where I learned that Gilmore has a home perilously close to mine -- he launched into three topics: taxes, the car tax in particular; transportation; the state of the GOP.
Obviously, Gilmore has an interest in defending the car tax. But he positioned his support for it in a way I rarely hear: it's one of the only methods the state can put money back into the pockets of taxpayers short of a rebate.
He also firmly believes that efforts to block full implementation of the plan represent "a breach of faith and a massive deception." He is untroubled by the growing "cost" of the program, or at least the growth that occurred until the GA imposed a cap last year. The growth in car tax relief effectively stopped the state from spending money on new programs -- forcing it to set priorities among existing measures rather than creating new ones.
Agree or disagree with the approach, there is a certain logic to it.
On the matter of transportation, Gilmore said that Tim Kaine has no mandate to raise taxes because his ideas were not first vetted by an election. Kaine, Gilmore says, talked only vaguely about increases, but only after the transportation trust fund had been placed off limits. He called the renewed series of townhalls Kaine will convene on the matter "show trials." Ouch.
But he said that transportation must be addressed. He suggested that additional funds could be found today by diverting more of the insurance premium tax as well as the auto parts sales tax away from the general fund and into transportation.
But the meat of his discussion was the state of the GOP. And his views will set a lot of people back on their heels.
Gilmore says the problem with the Republican Party in Virginia is not only the RPV...but the legislature, and all Republicans as well. He believes it's vital for the Party to concentrate on suburbanites -- their concerns, their needs, their wishes. He believes they want low taxes, safe communities and an education system that is effective and accountable (and that education trumps all other concerns -- even taxes and transportation).
Gilmore believes the Republicans in the General Assembly have placed the needs of government ahead of the needs of the people. The GOP, he thinks, is now the party of "big taxation" which he calls "ridiculous."
He challenges the Senate in particular to explain where these "bills in the drawer" come from and why are they there.
He believes it is vital to fight on the suburban turf in Northern and Central Virginia. He took a not-so-subtle swipe at Kilgore, saying that niche issues like the death penalty aren't important, but public safety and law enforcement are. He also believes it's far more important to fight campaigns based upon ideas rather than personalities (perhaps yet another swipe at Kilgore -- hard to say). He wants to see candidates who are qualified, credible, strong, with a conservative message that addresses people's needs.
Right now, the GOP has a mixed message, and it will continue to dwindle toward minority status so long as they try to govern as "Democrat-lite."
The crowd loved it, but he was preaching to the choir. Others will look upon what he said as nothing more than the same old, divisive, Jim Gilmore bombast. But it wasn't. It was forceful, to be sure. And it was tough, particularly on the GOP.
There were also a lot of pressies in the crowd, including a hirsute Michael Shear and a dapper Bob Gibson (with whom I chatted afterwards). I look forward to reading their accounts.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 2/14/2006