Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli promised Tuesday to slash Virginia income taxes by $1.4 billion and pay for the cuts by eliminating tax loopholes, making a call for lower taxes a central tenant of the gubernatorial canddiate's economic plan.
In his first major policy announcement of the campaign, Cuccinelli said that, as governor, he would cut the personal income tax rate paid by most Virginians from 5.75 percent to 5 percent while cutting income tax paid by businesses from 6 percent to 4 percent. That's estimated to cost the state about $1.4 billion a year and "help Virginia families keep more of their hard-earned pay," Cuccinelli said.
Virginia collected $10.6 billion in personal income tax in 2012, according to the Department of Taxation, and about $870 million in corporate income taxes.
"To compete with 49 other states, we not only need the best schools and health-care delivery system, we also need an attractive economic climate," he added.
Cuccinelli did not identify what tax loopholes he'd close to make up for revenue lost to tax cuts. He said he'd give any industry that now gets a tax break from the state a chance to defend that break before he would eliminate it.
"If they can't, it's goodbye loophole," Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli drew a quick rebuke from the campaign of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, which labeled his proposed tax cuts "unrealistic."
"Cuccinelli's proposal would lead to a budget crisis that could undermine education, force localities to dramatically raise property taxes, and threaten the commonwealth's bond rating," McAuliffe policy director Evan Feinman said. "Under Govs. [Mark] Warner, [Tim] Kaine and [Bob] McDonnell, Virginia has maintained its reputation as a well-managed state, but Cuccinelli's unrealistic and ideological plan would undermine that tradition. Virginians know there is no such thing as a free lunch."
Even as they quarrel, Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are in agreement that the state should reduce or eliminate a number of local taxes on business. McAuliffe proposed reducing local machinery and tool taxes and a tax on business licenses, among others, and Cuccinelli offered similar proposals Tuesday.
Neither candidate identified how local governments could make up that lost revenue, though they both vowed to find a way.
In proposing a significant tax cut, Cuccinelli positions himself as the anti-tax candidate against McAuliffe, who gave a full-throated endorsement of $880 million tax hike McDonnell and the General Assembly passed earlier this year to fix the state's transportation woes.
Cuccinelli opposed that transportation plan because of the tax increases, but made it clear Tuesday that he would not overturn the plan if elected.
"We will have a separate proposal on transportation. It will not be to repeal what you saw this year," Cuccinelli said. "The General Assembly made their decision."