VA car tax cuts met by strong opposition

ARLINGTON, VA: Golin/Harris has been retained by a budding

coalition in a state budgetary battle. The coalition, whose working

title is Virginians for Fiscal Responsibility (VFR), wants to slam the

brakes on further cuts in the state's car tax until it is clear that

existing funding for state programs will not be threatened.



Lane Bailey, regional managing director for G/H, said the agency shares

concerns similar to the coalition's organizers over the fate of funding

for education and roads. Thirty-plus state senators, both Republicans

and Democrats, have helped to form the coalition, intent on dissuading

Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-VA) from further reducing the state's car tax. The

coalition worries the lost revenue may force cuts in funding for state

programs to balance the budget.



The state senators and other interest groups formed the coalition with

the intent of waging a PR campaign to counter the resources for

communications at Gilmore's disposal. While Bailey declined to be

specific about tactics, he did say VFR's communications effort will use

earned media to disseminate its viewpoint, as well as traditional

advertising.



Gilmore became a hero to fiscal conservatives with his vocal challenge

to the state's car tax in his 1997 campaign for governor. Once in

office, Gilmore pared the tax, unpopular with many Virginians, down

considerably.



But his desire to axe it even further in a time when revenues may slow

down has met with difficulty in the state senate during the just-ended

legislative session. While Gilmore claims funds to make up for a

shortfall can be found by delaying capital projects, many senators want

no further reduction until it is clear that the state can continue to

afford funding existing transportation and education programs.



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