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Updated: Budget Politics in Virginia

Anita Kumar

It seems like everyone in Richmond has an opinion about Gov. Tim Kaine's announcement Wednesday that the state needs to make up a $1.5 billion budget shortfall this year.

There will likely be trims to core services, including education, health care and public safety, but on Wednesday, the talk was less about the cuts and more about -- what else? -- politics.

State Senator and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds praised Kaine, criticized George W. Bush (yes, we know he's been gone for months) and talked about his "responsible and comprehensive government efficiency plan" that will save money.

Not to be outdone, his Republican rival Bob McDonnell issued a statement praising another Democrat (as has become his practice as he tries to run as a moderate), former governor Doug Wilder, and criticized Deeds for supporting a tax increase (Deeds has said he would support one, though he hasn't proposed one). "My opponent has repeatedly supported higher taxes on the people of Virginia,'' he said. "That is the wrong approach to take, both for our citizens and for our government."

But by far the strongest comments of the day came from Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican running for re-election against Kaine's former finance secretary Jody Wagner.

"This is what happens when you base your budget on money you don't have to make promises you can't keep,'' he said. "For the past four years we have based our budget on overly optimistic revenue projections, the use of one-time revenues to pay for ongoing programs, spiraling amounts of state debt and raids on the rainy day fund. That is not fiscally responsible and we cannot continue to manage Virginia 's finances this way."

No statement from Wagner, but the Democratic party attacked Bolling on her behalf. The party accused Bolling of failing to attend meetings of the governor's advisory Council that helps write the revenue estimates. Bolling is invited, but is not a member.

Many legislators have long accused Kaine of being overly optimistic when it comes to the state's finances. House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said he was pleased that Kaine "has finally taken a realistic view on the projected budgetary shortfall," but Pat Mullins, chairman of the GOP party, wasn't as polite. "Kaine and his acolyte, former Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner, have missed budget projections to the tune of about 20-percent and a total of over $6 billion,'' he said. "Now, Creigh Deeds and Wagner are running around saying that they want to continue the Kaine legacy. Well, I just don't think the Commonwealth can afford that."

At 6:50 p.m., more than nine hours after the budget announcement, Wagner's campaign did send out a statement on the budget criticzing Bush and Bolling. "While my opponent has been absent for every revenue forecasting meeting in the last four years, I've been working with Governor Kaine and leaders on both sides of the aisle to help Virginia's families make it through these trying times."

By Anita Kumar  |  August 19, 2009; 6:25 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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What the hell? "it doesn't matter that Deeds has not actually supported [a tax increase]"? Seriously?

I suppose that's true, unless you count the multitude of tax increase Creigh Deeds supported and fought for as a State Senator, the sly wink-and-nods towards tax increases on the campaign trail (including saying that tax increases were on the table and that he would sign a bill increasing taxes), and the fact that the WASHINGTON POST endorsed Deeds, in part, because of his record of supporting tax increases.

Could you guys try any harder to promote the Deeds campaign? Maybe next time you could mention how swell of a guy he is and link to his donate page while you're out there fighting his battles and promoting his talking points.

Posted by: VABlogger | August 20, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

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