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RICHMOND — No member of the House of Delegates voted Jan. 21 to support former Gov. Tim Kaine's proposal to increase the state income tax and effectively eliminate the personal property tax on vehicles.
But that didn't stop lawmakers from staging 40 minutes of partisan theater before killing the legislation, the opening round in a fierce fight over fixing a $4.2 billion state budget shortfall.
By a vote of 97-0, with one member abstaining, the House defeated Kaine's plan to impose a 1 percent income tax "surcharge" that would generate new revenue for counties, cities and towns. The tax plan was central to the budget-balancing plan Kaine proposed in December, a month before leaving office. A Senate version of the bill has not come up for a vote.
Kaine's Republican successor, Gov. Bob McDonnell, has said that he will veto any bill or budget plan that increases taxes.
House Republicans declared Kaine's proposal dead on arrival last month, but they refused to allow the bill's sponsor, Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington), to withdraw the measure when it reached the floor. Instead, they forced Democrats to choose between supporting a tax increase or rejecting a key component of a budget plan offered by the former governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Republicans had used a procedural tactic to send HB1155 to the floor without a committee recommendation, forcing a full House vote on the bill.
"We all know why this bill is here," said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry County). "It's here to embarrass us. It's here to embarrass Tim Kaine. It's here to poison the well."
Armstrong said he couldn't support a tax increase, but also argued that Republicans' insistence on forcing a vote soured a bipartisan climate McDonnell tried to cultivate during his first week in office.
The House GOP majority blamed Kaine for leaving lawmakers with a budget plan and tax bill that had no chance of passing.
"I'm sorry that some of you all are embarrassed," House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) said to his Democratic counterparts before the vote. "It's real easy not to be embarrassed. Just vote no."