Republican candidate for Virginia governor Ed Gillespie announced a sweeping set of proposals aimed at cutting taxes for families in the Commonwealth Thursday, calling for a 10 percent income tax rate cut – the first state cut since 1972.
The plan, enacted over three years, projects $1,300 in annual savings for an average family of four. The policy would attract an estimated 50,000 new full-time jobs, based on economic modeling from two conservative think tanks, the Thomas Jefferson Institute and Beacon Hill Institute.
“This is the first part of a broad policy agenda that will get Virginia moving again,” Gillespie said in a conference call Thursday. “Bringing down taxes on hard working Virginians will make it easier to establish businesses… And I think we’ll see more revenue coming in as a result of these across the board cuts.”
The tax cuts rely on a new economic boom to pay for them, after five straight years of Virginia’s growth remaining below the national average. If the state’s growth remains sluggish, taxes would not be reduced as dramatically, in order to protect funds for Virginia hospitals, schools and law enforcement.
“This is part of a push to move Virginia first in the nation in economic growth,” Gillespie said. “We’ve had way too many Virginians working part time jobs instead of full time, and that needs to change.”
In an interview Thursday, Gillespie said it was uncertain whether President Donald Trump's plans to slash the size of the federal workforce would adversely impact Virginia's economy, potentially dooming the proposed tax cut.
"Look, we're always always affected by federal policy," Gillespie said. "I haven't seen the specifics in terms of the impact on jobs in Northern Virginia or the jobs in Newport News."
Response was swift on Twitter, with Democratic candidate for Governor Tom Perriello expressing skepticism.
“Is it any surprise that the leading R puts an unfunded tax cut as ‘centerpiece’ of his economic agenda, instead of a plan to raise wages?,” Perriello wrote.
If elected, Gillespie said he would call for a special session of the General Assembly in September of 2018 to devise ways to implement the tax plan. The proposal also calls for the elimination of complicated business taxes on the local level, often varying between disparate regions of the state.
Gillespie is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who narrowly lost a bid for U.S. Senate to Mark Warner in 2014. Virginia will hold the most closely watched governor’s race in the nation this November, widely viewed as a potential referendum on the Trump presidency.
Corey Stewart, former chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign and current chairman of the Prince William County board of supervisors, is Gillespie’s closest rival.
The most recent polling from Quinnipiac University conducted in mid-February shows 59 percent of Virginia voters are undecided, with nearly a quarter preferring Gillespie, and seven percent favoring Stewart.
Republican State Senator Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach has five percent support at this early stage, with Charlottesville distillery-owner Denver Riggleman at two percent. Riggleman announced Thursday he is suspending his campaign for governor.
The gubernatorial candidates will face off in a primary battle just under 90 days from now on June 13.