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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske October 5, 2016

Mike Pence says Tim Kaine tried to raise Virginia taxes by $4 billion

Republican Mike Pence accused Democrat Tim Kaine of being a big taxer during the 2016 vice-presidential debate.

"He actually tried to raise taxes by about $4 billion," Pence said of Kaine’s record as Virginia governor from 2006 to 2010.

Pence made a similar statement during an Oct. 3 rally in Ashland, Va. Stephen Cheung, a spokesman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, emailed us that Pence was referring to three unsuccessful tax proposals Kaine made during his gubernatorial term.

The first came days after Kaine took office. He rolled out a plan to raise about $1 billion a year for the state’s longstanding transportation woes.    

Kaine wanted to raise taxes on auto insurance and vehicle purchases in addition to increasing car registration fees and imposing steeper fines on drivers who got tickets. The registration fees are similar to a tax, since all drivers must register their cars. Pence takes license by including the higher driving penalties as a tax, since those payments could have been easily avoided.

We should note that Senate Republicans that year unsuccessfully proposed a bill -- different from Kaine’s proposal -- that also would have raised taxes by $1 billion for transportation.  

Kaine’s second tax proposal came during the summer of 2008, when lawmakers gathered for a special transportation session. Ahead of the conclave, Kaine proposed a $1.1 billion plan that would have increased the titling tax to 4 percent from 3 percent, and hike vehicle registration fees by $10.

Kaine offered his final tax hike in December 2009 -- his last full month in office. Virginia’s economy was reeling from the aftershocks of the Great Recession, and Kaine proposed raising state income tax rates for all brackets by 1 percentage point.

Kaine’s plan, defeated a week after he left office in January 2010, would have generated $1.9 billion a year. That would have been offset by $650 million taxpayers would have saved by a companion proposal to end Virginia’s personal property tax on vehicles. So the net effect of his last-year plan would have been a $1.25 billion annual tax hike.

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All told, Kaine proposed $4 billion in annual tax hikes during his term, tempered by $650 million in cuts. That comes to a net total of $3.35 billion.

Alternate route

There’s another way to get to $4 billion in tax increases that Trump used during a July 25 rally in Roanoke, Va.

The presidential nominee said that Kaine, during his first week as governor, "proposed a nearly $4 billion tax increase." Trump’s campaign backed the statement by taking the $1 billion transportation tax hike Kaine proposed in 2006 and multiplying it over the four years of his gubernatorial term.

It should be noted, however, that neither Trump in Roanoke, nor Pence during the debate, said they were referring to the four-year cumulative cost of one proposed tax increase.

Our ruling

Pence said that when Kaine was governor, "He actually tried to raise taxes by about $4 billion."

Pence was referring to three unsuccessful tax hikes proposed by Kaine. Two of them, in 2006 and 2008, were for transportation. The third, in 2009, was to raise general funds for the state. Added up, they come to $4 billion in proposed tax hikes and fees.

There’s a couple of issues, however. Kaine’s 2009 income tax hike was offset by a $650 million cut in the state’s car tax. So the net annual cost of all three tax and fee proposals was $3.35 billion. Secondly, Pence’s math double counts Kaine’s unsuccessful efforts to raise taxes for transportation.

On the whole, we rate Pence’s statement Mostly True.

Our Sources

Mike Pence, Vice-presidential debate, Oct. 4, 2016

Mike Pence, Speech in Ashland, Va., Oct. 3, 2016.

PolitiFact Virginia, "George Allen says Tim Kaine proposed $6 billion in tax increases while governor," April 16, 2011.

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More by Warren Fiske

Mike Pence says Tim Kaine tried to raise Virginia taxes by $4 billion

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