Not since Patrick Henry said "Give me Liberty or give me Death" has someone speaking from Church Hill come up with a better campaign slogan. But it is true: Governor McDonnell may have given Ken Cuccinelli a campaign slogan ("No Gas Tax") to match the one created 16 years ago ("No Car Tax") by Boyd Marcus, now Bill Bolling's campaign manager.
Quite the irony. But Democrats are going to have a hard time fighting the "No Gas Tax" slogan if it ever gets legs, irrespective of the policy debate as to user fees vs. general taxation to fund transportation.
I believe user fees need to play a major role in transportation; one reason being you can't use such fees on education. Are Democrats going to propose extending the sales tax to educational services such as college tuition?
BUT POLITICS AND POLICY CAN OFTEN BE CAMPAIGNS APART.
That is why I have been writing about the coming education issue in 2013 for more than a year. Like it or not, transportation and education are competing right now for the same tax dollar.
So unless the Democrats can be proactive as opposed to just pushing the same ol' same ol', they could find themselves losing a race they should win in 2013.
Flashback: In 1997, Democrat Don Beyer, calling the "No Car Tax" a "lemon" (Beyer you may recall was a car dealer) positioned himself against Gilmore with the basic slogan "Education First," or something along those lines. That didn't turn out too well for Beyer, even though he had a big lead in the polls at one point.
WARNING TO DEMOCRATS: Don't underestimate the appeal of "No Gas Tax" in the hands of a McDonnell/Cuccinelli combo.
True, it isn't the same equation as in 1997, because Gilmore wasn't proposing to raise a tax to eliminate the tax. It was just a campaign slogan. So in that sense it is not as politically attractive.
ON THE OTHER HAND: It is addressing a real need in key Democratic areas like NOVA. What Bob McDonnell's proposing is to replace a far more hated tax with a far more acceptable tax in terms of polling. And he forces Democrats to come up with their own plan: Plus, if he is successful, it isn't just a slogan, he will have eliminated the tax in time for the election.
So if Democrats aren't careful, they could be blamed for keeping the gas tax that voters are paying to drive to the polls!!
THIS IS A SERIOUS POLITICAL PLAY BY THE GOVERNOR.
So to repeat: Democrats need to get on the offense here. That's why I say: Use the Internet Sales Tax part of the Governor's plan to turn the tables of the debate. I don't think Just the Usual Response - it doesn't raise taxes enough - is going to prove very politically useful this year.
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