July 11, 2011 - 2:36 pm

BY WESLEY P. HESTER

The debt ceiling debate has entered Virginia’s 2012 U.S. Senate race, with heavyweights George Allen and Timothy M. Kaine trading shots over taxes and entitlements.

Following last week’s dismal jobs report, Kaine, a Democrat, issued a statement saying that while the private sector continues to add jobs, deficit reduction efforts were reducing public sector employment.

“This demonstrates that efforts to reduce the deficit just via cuts will slow job growth,” Kaine said. “The balanced approach involves spending cuts, finding more tax revenue through the elimination of unnecessary loopholes and continued investments needed to grow the economy.”

Allen’s campaign responded, saying the former Democratic National Committee chairman’s statement “shows that he is clearly out of touch with the realities of everyday life outside of Washington.”

Bill Riggs, an Allen campaign spokesman, said that “to claim that today’s bad economic news is a result of attempts to reduce the federal deficit, then turn right around and advocate for a tax increase, shows that Chairman Kaine doesn’t understand that it is those very policies that continue to stifle job growth.”

Kaine campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine responded Monday to the criticism from Allen’s camp, pointing to Allen’s praise for aspects of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan.

“George Allen is fighting to protect tax breaks for big oil companies and billionaires while praising a plan that balances the budget on the backs of seniors and middle class Americans,” Hoffine said. “Tim Kaine believes we need a balanced approach to cutting spending that prioritizes shared responsibility and creates jobs through investments in education and economic development. We’ll leave it to voters to decide which candidate is ‘out-of-touch.’”

Allen recently signed the “cut, cap and balance” pledge, a promise not to raise the debt ceiling without “substantial” spending cuts, future spending caps and a balanced budget amendment.  

Many prominent Republicans in Congress, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, have refused to sign the pledge, indicating that a balanced budget amendment does not need to be a part of a debt ceiling deal.