Time Anoints Tax-Hiking Mark Warner as Great Guv

     Today what makes Governors great is not the loft of their dreams but the depths of their pragmatism, Time magazine gushed in its November 21 edition, praising five governors who can reckon with reality. Unfortunately for the constituents of all but two of those governors, that seems to be a reality which comes out of their paychecks especially in Virginia, where outgoing governor and rumored 2008 presidential hopeful Mark Warner passed a $1.4 billion tax increase in 2004.

     Time also recognized Governors Kenny Guinn, Mike Huckabee, Kathleen Sebelius, and Janet Napolitano of Nevada, Arkansas, Kansas, and Arizona respectively, as best governors in the United States. While all received glowing rhetoric about their governing styles and policies, Warner received perhaps the warmest praise: Time portrayed Warner as a hesitant tax hiker, who cut government heavily before resorting reluctantly to a tax increase to save the Old Dominions finances.

     Reading almost like campaign literature, Time exulted: Given his one-term limit, it would have been tempting for Warner to simply paper over the problem and pass it on to his successor, as other Governors had done before him. Instead, he pulled together an unlikely coalition that won enough GOP votes to pass a $1.4 billion tax hike, the largest in Virginia history and put the state on the road to fiscal stability.

     But as The Wall Street Journals Stephen Moore wrote in July, its not that cut-and-dry. Moore noted that mere 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.

     In fact, continued Moore, in 2005, with the higher tax rate, tax receipts have exploded by 12% and the state legislature is swimming in a green river. Unfortunately, wrote Moore, these extra taxes have not been dedicated to balancing the budget, but to spending on every program imaginable, which grew the budget by 26% over Gov. Warner's tenure, about twice the national average for the states.