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Warner, Chichester Defend 2004 Tax Deal

Amy Gardner

Woe unto the political candidate who questions 2004. That's what Republican Bob McDonnell did in last week's debate against Creigh Deeds in front of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, when he said the major tax increase of that year was a bad idea.

Button pushed. Conference call scheduled. Senators Warner and Chichester, are you on the line?

Democrat Mark R. Warner (D) the U.S. senator and former governor, and Republican John H. Chichester, the former state Senate president pro tem, both gladly spoke by telephone to reporters today to defend what they view as their historic stewardship of Virginia's finances five years ago.

"What we did in 2004 was not about creating new programs," Warner told a telephone gaggle of reporters this afternoon. "It was not about creating expensive new initiatives. It was about paying our bills."

What they did, specifically, was persuade a coalition of business leaders, community groups and moderate Republicans to back a $1.4 billion tax increase. The plan closed a gap in the state budget that had threatened Virginia's top-notch bond rating and boosted spending on schools, public safety and mental health care. State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, McDonnell's Democratic opponent, voted for the increase. McDonnell, then a delegate from Virginia Beach, voted against it.

Deeds, needless to say, arranged today's call.

"When the tough got going, Creigh Deeds stood up with us, and he said, 'I'm going to be with you all the way. Virginia's more important than anything else,'" Chichester said.

McDonnell talked of the tax hike at last week's debate, criticizing it as the largest tax increase in Virginia's history and noting that a state surplus the same year demonstrated that the increase was not needed.

"I did not think it was the right vote at the time," McDonnell said, "because the kind of governor that I'm going to be is to find ways to do things better, to make reform government, to use innovation and privatization and consolidation to be able to find new resources, to set priorities in government. That's why I've said public safety and transportation and funding for higher education will be my priorities, as opposed to my opponent that's always just looking for new revenues."

Chichester and Warner scoffed at that idea, noting that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) would be facing a shortfall closer to $2.5 billion had the General Assembly not fixed the budget's "structural" problems of 2004.

"I'm not going to put words in Mr. McDonnell's campaign, but those comments were basically saying, 'We're going to go back to looking only at the short term, next year's revenues, as a way to forecast Virginia's financial future,'" Chichester said. "It's that short-term thinking that got us into the ditch that we had to dig out in the first place."

By Amy Gardner  |  September 22, 2009; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Amy Gardner , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Next: Rep. Joe Wilson Helps Va. GOP. No Lie!


Thats fine. But now Deeds wants to raise the gas tax, an idea that Warner said was wrong just last year. Does Warner agree with Deeds that we need to increase taxes again? Is Deeds going to tell Virginians how much he thinks the gas tax should be raised?

Posted by: OldVirginian | September 22, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

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