Republican ticket on right track

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

Seizing private property merely to increase the tax revenue for local governments is not an appropriate use of the eminent domain power.

So said Republican candidate for governor Jerry Kilgore in a Tuesday press release.

We couldn't agree more.

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Kilgore and other statewide GOP candidates Tuesday proposed amending three laws and the Virginia Constitution to prohibit government from seizing private property for economic development.

The announcement came in response to last month's Supreme Court ruling that municipalities can take private property for private development that meets the public purpose of creating jobs and revenue.

Traditionally, eminent domain has been cited for taking land for public purposes such as roads, schools or parks.

The ruling has been met with public outcry from across the political spectrum and is an open door for corrupt officials to give property to favored developers as well as transferring wealth to the affluent, as noted by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Conner in her dissent.

The Associated Press reported that the candidates proposed that Virginia amend two laws and the state Constitution to state that "public uses shall not include the taking of private property for the primary purpose of economic development or tax revenue enhancement." A law dealing with local governments' power of eminent domain also would be amended to refer to that definition.

Tim Kaine, the Democratic hopeful for governor, has offered no specific proposal but has said he would support legislation strictly limiting the definition of "public use" to justify condemnation.

Private property rights are held sacred in Virginia and it's a good bet that any candidate for statewide office who does not come out against this proposal will be headed for defeat in November.

Good thing, too.