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Post Downplayed Tax Dissent in Mark Warner Article

     With rumored 2008 presidential hopeful Mark Warners term of office drawing to an end, The Washington Posts Michael D. Shear recently chalked up Virginias steady economic performance Bipartisan-Minded Governor Broke Tax Vow but Revived Va. read the articles subhead to the Democratic governors campaign pledge-breaking tax hike. Unlike his reporting in a February 2005 article on the Virginia budget surplus, however, Shear downplayed dissenting conservative arguments that Virginias tax increase was unnecessary to plug the states budget deficit. Shear cited Republican legislators cooperating with the Democratic governor on tax hikes as eschewing partisanship for The Virginia Way.

     He turned a $6 billion shortfall in the state budget into a billion-dollar surplus, wrote Shear in his January 10 front page article, later reporting that Gov. Warner reluctantly broke his campaign pledge to not raise taxes when he concluded that the scope of the states budget mess the shortfall had ballooned to $6 billion justified breaking the pledge. Shear insisted Virginians favor a less-partisan approach to government that emphasizes good management and good service, as enough majority-party Republican legislators joined Democrats to put aside partisanship.

     The 2,353-word article, Warners Triumphant Legacy No Easy Feat dismissed the argument of conservative activists and lawmakers that the tax increase was unnecessary, writing that Virginians polled on it said it was still a wise idea. Yet in an article in February 2005 he acknowledged that there was a debate over whether the $1.5 billion tax increase passed the year before was even necessary to plug the budget gap, given the strong tax revenue even before the tax increase took effect.

     The evidence of a still-surging economy rekindles debate about whether last year's tax increase was necessary, Shear noted in his February 1, 2005 front page story. After reporting that Warner informed lawmakers that tax revenue could exceed Warners original revenue projections by $1.2 billion, he cited criticism from James T. Parmelee of Republicans United for Tax Relief. We were right, and the governor was wrong, Parmelee said after hearing the new estimates of state revenue. So, should I expect my refund check in the mail? What he needs to do is give the money back to the people he took it from under false pretenses.

     Five months later Stephen Moore, a Warner critic and former Business & Media Institute advisor, also lambasted the notion that the tax increase was necessary to plug Virginias budget deficit. Months before the tax hike was enacted, the state's revenue office reported a massive 7.5% surge in tax receipts from the previous year due to the national economic recovery, argued Moore in a July 2005 OpinionJournal column.  This year, with the higher tax rate, tax receipts have exploded by 12% and the state legislature is swimming in a green river, added Moore, who similarly criticized Warner in a March 2005 Cato Institute report card on the fiscal policy of U.S. state governors.

     The Business & Media Institute reported in November how Time magazine praised Warners tax increase.