Three days after only one challenger succeeded in ousting any of the 19 GOP delegates who voted for the tax increase last year(and that seemed as much on social issues as taxes by the challenger’s own admission), The Washington Post is the only newspaper in the state today to run a story about revenue projections running ahead of predictions. Only the Richmond Times Dispatch editorial page, which harps on taxes, felt the need to mention the surpluses.

That may be because the surpluses have been monthly occurrences for this budget year. Maybe the Post missed that.

I suspect that The Post may be congenitally incapable of seeing any election for state or local office but as a fight over taxes. Even Shaun Keeney, the anti-tax challenger to Bobby Orrock admitted, “We did focus on the tax hike, and no one cared.”

But the Post cares. It’s interesting to note that the sub-head in the story that appeared in this morning’s paper read “Growth Reopens Debate on Increases.” Well, of course, growth doesn’t have the same vocal chords you and I do, so it would be hard for Mr. Growth to debate the increases. In the online version, however, the sub-head reads “Gubernatorial Candidates Reopen Debate on Need for Last Year’s Increases.”

I found that curious. Why would Tim Kaine want to reopen that debate? Well, he didn’t, according to Delacey Skinner, the Lt. Governor’s spokeswoman. When called for a comment, Kaine’s office apparently responded as she is quoted in the story, but, Skinner told me, she nor anyone else with the campaign sought to reopen the debate.

But Jerry Kilgore wanted to. So The Post wanted to, too, I guess. The Post may be aware of the thin ice they skate on by harping on the tax issue. If there’s another reason for changing the headline, I’d like to hear it.

If we are to debate what we want the candidates to do with our money when they get into office and how much of it they want from our pockets, that’s fine. But the debate shouldn’t be about taxes first, but rather how we spend them. Why can’t The Post get that? Most Virginians, according to polls, say they support the tax increases of ’04.

One thing missing from the coverage is the extent to which the surpluses are news. Have we had other periods of sustained revenue growth followed by unexpected declines that put pressure on the budget. Of course we have. But how long were they, how predictable were the downturns and what happened when they came? All of that would be grist for a news story.

So why must The Post continue to harp on taxes, when even candidates who ran against the increases say no one cares?