Friday, October 24th, 2014

A quick take on the Allen Kaine debate:

Democrat Tim Kaine (left) and Republican George Allen (right) shake hands after their U.S. Senate debate on July 21.
Democrat Tim Kaine (left) and Republican George Allen (right) shake hands after their U.S. Senate debate on July 21.

HOT SPRINGS -- PolitiFact Virginia made a road trip Saturday to cover the U.S. Senate debate between Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine.

We have plenty of work ahead. In the coming days, we plan run a number of claims by the candidates through the Truth-O-Meter. For starters today, we’ll review some statements made at the debate that we have previously researched.

Allen: "Right now, the federal government imposes the worst in the world, highest tax on job-creating businesses in the world."

Allen made a similar claim last year and we rated it Mostly True. His comment is based on a study of the 32 large, industrialized democracies that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The organization ranked the highest tax bracket for general corporate income in federal and state taxes.

The combined corporate tax rate in the U.S. last year was 39.2 percent, tops on the list.

But this study looked at statutory rates. A March 2011 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service considered the effective tax rate, which is what companies pay after deductions and credits. The CRS found the effective U.S. corporate tax of 27.6 percent is about average for industrialized nations, as noted by PolitiFact Tennessee.

Kaine: "When George Allen was governor, state spending went up by 45 percent in four years."

Allen inherited a $14.7 billion state budget when he became governor in January 1994. Shortly before leaving office in January 1998, he proposed a $20.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that would start on July 1. That’s a 41 percent increase. The overall state budget, however, includes federal aid to Virginia that the governor does not control.

A better measure of spending comes from examining the general fund, which largely consists of income and sales tax receipts that are used to support schools, health programs and public safety. Allen inherited a $6.8 billion general fund in 1994 and proposed expanding it to $9.9 billion in his final budget, which comes to growth of 45.6 percent.

We’ve previously noted that the spending increases under Allen were about average for Virginia governors who have served over the last 31 years. Also, Allen proposed a $2.1 billion tax cut in 1995 that was rejected by the Democratic-run General Assembly.


Allen: "Tim, as governor, tried to raise taxes by $4 billion."

Kaine was governor from 2006 to 2010. By our math, he proposed three tax increases that would have raised levies by $4 billion. They were all rejected by the General Assembly.

In 2006, he proposed a $1 billion tax increase for transportation. In 2008, he came back with a  different, $1.1 billion tax hike for roads.

In 2009, Kaine wanted to raise $1.9 billion by increasing the state income tax from 5.75 percent to 6.75 percent and giving the proceeds to localities. In exchange, local car taxes would be wiped out, saving vehicle owners about $650 million.

Kaine: When Allen was in the Senate, he "voted to increase the debt ceiling four times."

Allen was in the Senate from 2001 to 2007. He indeed voted "Aye" on each of four roll calls to raise the debt limit in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Allen faced a similar charge from Jamie Radtke, one of his opponents in this spring’s GOP primary, and we rated it True.

Allen: "I was one of 15 who voted against the bridge to nowhere."

We rated this claim True when Allen made it in a debate last December with Kaine. The "Bridge to Nowhere" was a proposed $225 million span connecting the city of Ketchikan, Alaska to the Island of Gravina, which has 50 residents.

In July 2005, Allen was one of 94 senators who voted for a $286.5 billion transportation bill that included money for the bridge. Later that year, Allen supported an amendment to another transportation appropriations bill that would have redirected part of the funding for the Alaskan span to rebuild a hurricane-damaged bridge near New Orleans. The amendment failed by an 82-15 vote.

Kaine: Allen "voted for 52,000 earmarks."

According to a count by the Citizens Against Government Waste, the five federal budgets Allen backed in the Senate included 52,319 earmarks  -- or pork -- valued at $121.8 billion.

But these were not individual items; they were contained in roughly four dozen appropriations bills that the Senate passed, with Allen’s support. Allen also sought some earmarks, but we don’t know how many because Senate rules did not require that disclosure during his term.

PolitiFact has rated a similar claim against Allen -- again, made by Radtke -- as Mostly True.

Allen: Taxes were cut by $600 million during his governorship

Allen made the same claim in February and we rated it True. In 1994 he signed three cuts that totaled $482 million, including a Social Security income tax deduction for self-employed Virginians, a tax cut for senior citizens and a tax cut on the tangible assets of corporations.

In 1997, another $137 million in tax breaks were given to self-employed Virginians on unemployment insurance taxes. A bevy of smaller, focused tax credits and exemptions were also approved during his administration. We computed the total came to $676.1 million. But this is not an annual figure of tax savings. Some of the figures computed in Allen’s calculations and ours include aggregate reductions over as long as six years.

Kaine: "The federal debt increased by $16,000 every second George Allen was a senator."

We have previously rated this claim True. Allen supported budgets that affected spending from Oct. 1, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2007. During that time, the federal debt increased by $3.2 trillion. His six-year term covered 189,475,200 seconds.

So his votes supported spending that increased the debt by $16,896.68 per second. That rate of debt accumulation, we should note, has increased markedly since Allen left the Senate.

Allen: Kaine, as governor, balanced the budget "on the backs of students who had to pay over 30 percent higher tuition rates."

We reviewed a similar charge this spring. Kaine and the General Assembly balanced the budget during the recession by reducing many programs, including funding for higher education. That contributed to a rise in tuition.

Average tuition for in-state students at Virginia’s four-year colleges was $3,812 when Kaine became governor during the 2005-2006 school year. It rose to $5,003 in 2009-2010. That’s a 31.2 percent increase in raw dollars and about a 19 percent hike when adjusted for inflation.

Average tuition at two-year colleges rose from $2,182 in 2005-2006 to $2,716 in 2009-2010. That’s a 24.5 percent increase in raw dollars and about a 14 percent hike when adjusted for inflation.

Virginia was not alone in increasing tuition during those years. The U.S. Department of Education said the national average increased by 23 percent during that span, the College Board says they rose by 29 percent.

Kaine: "Virginia was the best state for business in America all four years I was governor."

Virginia was named the best state for business by Forbes magazine each of the four years Kaine was governor. The ranking was given due to Virginia’s highly-trained workforce, favorable regulatory environment and high quality of life.

We recently wrote that many of the qualities and policies that Forbes lauded existed in Virginia long before Kaine became governor. Kaine has shared credit with many people from both parties for the top ratings.