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Norment No Longer Supports $1 Car Fee

Tim Craig

Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) said today he no longer supports keeping the $1 per vehicle surcharge on annual vehicle registrations.

The fee was established in 2003 to raise money to pay for the Jamestown 400th commemoration. Earlier this month, Norment said he wanted Virginia to keep the fee to help pay for tourism promotions, even though the Jamestown celebrations are over.

Norment's remarks generated intense criticism from conservatives, who said they were a symbol of government becoming addicted to certain revenues.

The controversy threatened to become the first crack in Republican unity headed into next year's General Assembly session. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) is also pushing to keep the fee.

But at a press conference this morning, Norment said he made a mistake in calling for the fee to be continued. Although he still wants to boost funding for tourism, Norment now wants to repeal the fee because he said citizens had been promised it would sunset next year.

"This was a contract with the citizens of Virginia," Norment said. "The last thing I want to contribute to is the further mistrust citizens have for their government."

Norment's decision to cave into pressure from conservatives represents a new dynamic in Richmond. In past years, Norment and other Senate moderates would have dug in their heels and provoked a fight with the conservative wing of the GOP.

Now, Norment is sending a signal that he and other GOP senators are more attuned to the wishes of the GOP base. Kaine and Democrats will have to look elsewhere for partners, especially when it comes highly-charged issues such as raising taxes or fees.

By Tim Craig  |  December 17, 2007; 6:46 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2008 , Tim Craig , Timothy M. Kaine  
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