Byline: Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
RICHMOND - The independent gubernatorial candidate who has yet to clear 10 percent in polls announced yesterday his plan to increase taxes and tolls by at least $2 billion to "lead Virginia out of the transportation crisis."
H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, said as governor he would propose a host of tax increases to invest in the state's ailing highway system.
Of the increases he mentioned yesterday, Mr. Potts said he favors a one percentage point increase in the state income tax for those earning $100,000-plus a year, a $1 per pack tax increase on cigarettes and a one percentage point increase in the sales tax.
"The cost of congestion is far greater than the cost of the solution," Mr. Potts said. "If you're looking for the free lunch, I am not your guy. ... I hate taxes, but I love Virginia more."
If elected, Mr. Potts said he would call a special session of the General Assembly to address transportation. He said raising at least $2 billion equates to costing each Virginia driver about $1.03 a day.
Many political insiders and party loyalists have dismissed Mr. Potts, who jumped into the gubernatorial race earlier this year.
Republican candidate Jerry W. Kilgore refuses to debate Mr. Potts because he does not think the senator has a chance of winning. Democratic candidate Timothy M. Kaine will debate Mr. Potts today after a separate debate with Mr. Kilgore.
The election is Nov. 8.
Yesterday, Mr. Potts denounced his opponents as proposing "a big goose egg" and "zero, zippo" when it comes to fixing transportation.
Mr. Kilgore, a former attorney general, has said he would create regional transportation authorities that could call for referendums on raising taxes for roads.
"My plan is doable, but Russ Potts can never get his plan passed through the General Assembly," Mr. Kilgore said during a conference call yesterday. "My plan is going to get traffic moving again in Northern Virginia."
Mr. Kaine, the lieutenant governor, has said he would restore taxpayers' trust in Richmond by putting a lock on the Transportation Trust Fund. The procedure requires a state constitutional amendment and could not be completed until at least 2009 because it would be subject to voter approval.
Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner called the Potts plan an "enormous" tax increase. And she said Mr. Kilgore's …