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Fact Checker: Is that $7,800 number accurate?

Earlier this month, the GOP launched two television ads claiming that that Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds' support for a statewide gas tax and federal cap-and-trade legislation would result in $7,800 in additional taxes per Virginia family every four years.

Deeds (D-Bath) has fired back, debuting his own ad in southwest Virginia that called on Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell to "knock off the lies" about the Democrat's support for the cap-and-trade bill. So who is right and how did McDonnell reach that $7,800 number?

McDonnell's $7,800-figure ads were based primarily on two assumptions. The first is that Deeds would support a 20-cent-per-gallon state gas tax to raise the $1 billion he has said is needed for road and transit improvements. Deeds has yet to support such an increase.

He has said that Virginia needs at least $1 billion for roads but he has not identified where the money would come from (only that it would not come from the state's general fund operating budget). That figure mirrors what several lawmakers and transportation experts estimate would be needed to widen highways, pave roads, expand Metro and bus service and make fixes.

The state's current 17.5 cent per gallon gas tax is the primary source of road funding in Virginia. Last year, it brought in $851.2 million. Maryland, by comparison, has a 23.5 cent gas tax.

Virginia adopted its gasoline tax of 17.5 cents per gallon in 1986, and has kept that amount despite a double-digit increase in vehicle-miles traveled between 2000 and 2007, according to Virginia Department of Transportation figures. (The revenue grew roughly 13 percent in those years, to nearly $225 million).

To reach $1 billion, the state would likely have to increase its 17.5 cent per gallon gas tax to about 20 cents per gallon. Deeds has vowed to appoint a bipartisan commission to find a "dedicated funding mechanism for transportation -- even if it includes new taxes," he wrote in a column for The Post in late September. So it's unclear if Deeds would end up supporting such a hike. But some gas tax increase could be on the table, said Mike Gehrke, a campaign spokesman.

The second assumption is that Deeds supports the cap-and-trade bill pending in Congress to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. Deeds has supported efforts to reduce global warming and served on a climate change panel appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kane (D) that recommended such a program to curb pollution. But Deeds has said repeatedly that he has opposed the bill passed by the House earlier this year, as he is critical of a measure to increase utility costs.

McDonnell's camp pulls $6,800 of the supposed tax tab from a U.S. Treasury Department memo on federal cap-and-trade legislation, which said the annual impact on families would be $1,761. Multiply that by four years and, voila!, you get $7,044.

Problem is that figure comes from a simplistic calculation of the maximum revenue the federal government could get from cap-and-trade -- $200 billion -- being divided by 113.5 million households. No actual estimate on household costs was contained in the memo.

Thus, it's a worst-case scenario and a crude one at that, as noted by , which also detailed the faults with the $7,800 figure and its roots with a CBS News blogger.

A more plausible figure, provided by the Congressional Budget Office, is a purchasing power cut per household of $90 by 2012.

By Anne Bartlett  |  October 25, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , 2009 Governor's Race Fact Checker , Creigh Deeds , Derek Kravitz , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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There are three ways to raise $500,000,000.
1)Sell the state liquor stores that generate $100,000,000 in profit each year.
2)Raise the gas tax 10 cents per gallon.
3)Use the state's power of eminent domain to seize the Redskins and sell them to a new owner.

Posted by: hodgensrn | October 25, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

The deliberate misinformation continues. The article says a $0.025 increase is the gas tax is needed (that's two and one half cents from 17.5 to 20.0) and another poster inaccurately claims that a 20 cent increase is needed to raise only half the needed money.
Then that other poster claims selling liquor stores will fix the problem. No, it will not. An up front bump would be exchanged for permanent loss of that $100,000,000 annual profit he claims the stores generate.
The deliberate attempts to mislead people about Creigh Deeds never stop.

Posted by: wpbrown46 | October 25, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Ms. Bartlett, for posting this. did indeed debunk this McDonnell lie a few weeks ago, and it's about time the Post came around to let people know about it. Hopefully, it's not "too little, too late".

This is par for the course with Republicans these days - obfuscate, lie, cheat - do whatever they need to do to dupe the public into voting these dopes into office. And should Virginia fall for this ruse next week and vote this liar into office, hold onto your hats, because the Reich Wing will take hold.

Posted by: BigDaddyD | October 26, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

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