The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, October 28, 2005

Gilbert hits Blubaugh for stance on state gas tax; B3

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WOODSTOCK — The gas tax. It’s not just an issue for gubernatorial candidates anymore.

The campaign of the Republican candidate for the 15th District House of Delegates seat, Todd Gilbert, a former prosecutor for Shenandoah County, told reporters last week that his opponent, Democrat Jim Blubaugh of Rappahannock County, supports raising the state’s gas tax.

Campaign manager Wade Zirkle pointed to a survey conducted by the Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education, a nonpartisan business association, in which Blubaugh said he was supportive of an increase in the gas tax for a “long term, dedicated, sustainable” source of new revenue to deal with transportation issues.

Zirkle said Blubaugh misrepresented his views at a recent forum when he said he didn’t recall supporting higher gas taxes.

“It is clear that Mr. Blubaugh is out of touch with the voters of this district on issues like taxes, but he shouldn’t try to run from his true beliefs when facing the voters. It is one thing to be in favor of higher taxes,” Zirkle said.

“It is quite another to conveniently forget that you favor them in front of a large group of voters and the media.”

Blubaugh stood by his remarks in an interview with The Northern Virginia Daily last week.

The former federal official said he hasn’t supported a gas tax hike in the past, “unless if it was phrased in the terms, ‘If we needed additional roads, would you accept an increase in the gas tax to pay for it?’”

In other words, if the public decides that the commonwealth needs to build more roads, then the people who use roads should be the ones paying for them.

“I generally believe in user taxes and user fees, and to that extent, then yes: If you are going to be building roads, and the people of Virginia feel we need more roads, then it seems to me the proper user tax for that is the gas tax.”

Virginia’s legislators need to learn to keep their hands off the state’s transportation money and use it for that purpose alone, Blubaugh said, adding that he would support some kind of “lockbox” to keep legislators out of the transportation trust fund.

“Gas tax should be dedicated to transportation-related projects, and not used for other things in the state,” he said.

Gilbert said that “to even consider raising the tax on gasoline at a time when hardworking families in our district are struggling with gas prices is misguided. Our taxes are too high as it is and there is simply no room in family budgets to be able to afford more taxes, especially at the pump.”

Drivers in the Shenandoah Valley shouldn’t have to pay to fix projects in urban areas such as the Washington suburbs, Gilbert added.

“I don’t think the citizens of this district should have to dip further into their pockets in order to help pave over Northern Virginia,” he said.

Gas taxes have been a major issue at the top of the ticket, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore accusing Democrat Tim Kaine of wanting to raise the levy on fuel.

Kaine has said repeatedly that he does not support any new taxes for road building until the state takes action to protect road funds.

Election Day is Nov. 8.