So now the other guy has formally launched his campaign by trying to outdo his opponent in the “I’ll cut your taxes” race.

Trying to one-up Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, Jerry Kilgore promised to cut property taxes by the tried and true way of Virginia Republicans lately — take the decision away from local officials. From the earliest times in the history of the state, property taxes were assessed not by the state but by local officials. But Jerry Kilgore doesn’t like that tradition. He wants the state to take the decision away from local officials and instill it instead in a referendum. In fact, he wants every tax increase to be subject to a referendum. Ironically, one of the people on the stage with Kilgore yesterday was U.S. Sen. John Warner, who dismissed the idea last year when it was brought up to combat Gov. Warner’s tax plan. No reports that the senator reminded the adoring throngs of that fact.

What form would that referendum take? Who knows? Kilgore is offering few details. We know that he wants to keep assessments increases to no more than 5% But since a 5% increase in assessment would amount to a tax increase, would that decision be subject to a referendum? Would the referendum say this is the tax increase, take it or leave it? Or would there be options, say a 1%, 2% (up to 5%) or none? Could local officials wait for the outcome of the referendum before deciding to increase the rate? Well, probably not, as Jerry also wants any tax increase to be subject to a referendum. Would the referendum be on the total increase (rate plus assessment increase) or just the tax rate? Who knows. Jerry isn’t telling.

He’s left himself an out: Taxes could be raised in an emergency. What’s an emergency? Jerry isn’t telling.

“My opponent, he offers a dishonest plan that fails to address the problem,” he said. “Under my plan, tax relief is not an option left to local officials, it is my promise from me to you.”

Like I said, he doesn’t want that tradition of letting local officials decide. In Fairfax County in 2003, we had two candidates with different tax views. The Republican was soundly defeated after promising to limit property tax increases. But I guess the voters didn’t know better.

Kilgore also pledged to improve the state’s road network by creating regional transportation authorities. He vowed to create a commission to monitor state spending. And he promised to support education by offering better teachers higher pay and creating a new trust fund for school construction and technology.

Regional authorities? How does that raise money for transportation? Another commission. Don’t we already have an entire bureaucracy and the GA to monitor expenses? Offering better teachers higher pay is a great idea. Where will the money come from? Who will judge the teachers? A new education trust fund. Funded how?

We don’t know. Jerry isn’t telling.

We do know that he wants to emulate the borrow and spend agenda of the Bush administration.

Kilgore said he would seek to ease gridlock by creating regional transportation authorities that would be empowered to assess local road needs and borrow money.

Kilgore offered few specifics about how his plans would work.

Left unresolved was a big question about his promise to limit increases in real estate assessments. Neither Kilgore nor his advisers would say whether they also intend to freeze real estate tax rates.

As Jeff Shapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch writes,

Kilgore’s aggressive, populist line on taxes — coming less than a week after Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proposed allowing localities to exempt from taxation the first 20 percent of the value of any home — is the latest indication that both parties believe taxpayer anger will dominate the campaign for governor.

Because it takes a minimum of three years to revise the constitution, it would be 2008 at the earliest before either candidate’s proposal could take effect. The next governor’s term will end in 2010.

If this becomes a race of who offers the best tax cuts, we haven’t learned anything in four years. I think Kaine, despite his property tax plan, shouldn’t get sucked into a tax question at every stop. He’s got to talk about what Virginia will look like in four years under his leadership and how he will engage citizens to contribute to the solution.

Kilgore, not surprisingly, rejected Kaine’s offer to debate together throughout the state. Though he waxed proudly about his country twang, Kilgore doesn’t want too many people to hear it, apparently.

Meanwhile, Kilgore tried to paint Kaine with Richmond scandals.

“While we were pushing ethics reforms for state government, my opponent was presiding over a government racked by corruption and did nothing,” he said. The scandals, however, occurred after Mr. Kaine left the council when he assumed the lieutenant governorship in 2002.

Now tell me why Kaine shouldn’t be talking about Kilgore’s phone tap scandal or Jerry’s own mother’s scandal?

All in all, this isn’t starting out as a campaign about ideas, ideals, policies or even values. Its about those folks who say “It’s my money and I want to keep it.”