AP Political Writer
RICHMOND, Va. - Democrat Tim Kaine made his U.S. Senate campaign's first policy presentation Wednesday, calling for government investment in education, transportation infrastructure and research while ending tax cuts for those earning $500,000 or more annually.
Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner, back-to-back Democratic former governors, barnstormed Norfolk, Arlington and Richmond on Wednesday in Kaine's conspicuous opening public swing after months largely spent raising cash, huddling with advisers and citizen round-tables.
Kaine called for a simpler tax code for small business, more schooling before kindergarten and after high school, closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and Big Oil.
"The first thing is something I heard in every last roundtable I did, and that is to ease access to capital, lending access, particularly to small business," Kaine said.
In the wake of the banking crisis and market collapses of 2008, lenders became more tight-fisted and government reforms were enacted to prevent the abuses that nearly wrecked U.S. credit markets. Bipartisan legislation Congress passed recently has begun to ease some problems for small business borrowers, Kaine said.
"But we really need ... allow local community banks to really open up with the ability to lend more money," Kaine told reporters between airplane stops.
Examples of infrastructure projects Kaine said the federal government should support are the expansion of Craney Island in Hampton Roads as a major maritime terminal, and the project to extend the Washington, D.C., region's metro transit rail to Dulles International Airport.
Wednesday's Senate race crossfire tracked this week's presidential race themes closely, with $4 per-gallon gasoline prices thrusting energy policy to the campaign's forefront while the Supreme Court decides the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care reforms.
Virginia is a battleground both parties consider crucial to the presidential race and to determining partisan control of the Senate.
The American Energy Alliance has run ads hammering Obama policies for gas price increases. Obama turned the tables this week by airing an ad in Virginia and five other states saying the AEA is fighting Obama's efforts to end tax breaks for big oil companies and claiming that likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is in league with them.
Republicans, including GOP Virginia Senate frontrunner George Allen, on Wednesday faulted Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency's tougher new rules on power plant emissions for higher energy costs.
"If Chairman Kaine is serious about creating jobs, he should support the repeal of Obamacare, work to unleash all of our American energy resources, stop the Obama Administration's attack on coal and approve the Keystone pipeline," said Allen spokesman Mike Thomas.
Until December 2010, Allen headed the American Energy Freedom Center, a nonprofit energy industry advocacy group with funding from the Institute for Energy Reasearch, a group with oil companies among its sponsors and pushed for more robust domestic oil production.
Allen unveiled an economic development campaign proposal about a year ago. In trying to regain the Senate seat he lost in 2006 to Democrat Jim Webb, Allen faces determined conservative opposition in the June GOP Senate primary from Del. Bob Marshall of Prince William County, Virginia tea party leader Jamie Radtke and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson.
Kaine, Obama's friend and choice to head the Democratic National Committee from January 2009 until April 2011, called for more development of alternative power sources such as wind and solar electricity. Kaine jabbed at Allen, saying he belittles all forms of energy production that aren't carbon-based.
"I think a lot of George Allen's rhetoric was pulled from a 2003 campaign and he really hasn't checked the data," Kaine said, noting increases in domestic U.S. natural gas and petroleum production. "The one difference on George Allen and me on energy is ... he ridicules any energy source that is not carbon based. He ridicules solar, he ridicules geothermal, he ridicules wind turbines. He makes fun of them. He acts like they're not meaningful or important."
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