RESTON -- On a day when the entire country was debating health care, U.S. Senate candidates Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine talked technology and taxes. And a little bit of health care, too.
The two appeared at a Northern Virginia Technology Council town hall Thursday morning -- their first time in the same room since officially becoming their respective parties' nominees earlier this month -- as tech business leaders peppered them with questions ranging from the impact of the looming federal budget cuts to cybersecurity.
But as each candidate took his hourlong turn in front of the panel, taxes became the focal point and the clearest distinction between the two candidates' philosophies to reigning in the deficit.
Kaine called for a balance approached to cuts and new revenue, starting by letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the those earning more than $500,000 a year.
"When I look in the mirror, I want to be thinner, I never want to be weaker," Kaine said. "An all-cuts approach makes us weaker."
Kaine also felt the federal government could shore up Social Security coffers by raising the payroll tax cap above $110,000. He would also be open to a national sales tax of online purchases, calling the current system unfair to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
Allen rejected an online sales tax unless the company does business in the state and would raise the retirement age and curb benefits for wealthy individuals in order to fund Social Security. He characterized Kaine's plan to let some tax cuts expire as an attack on small businesses, and he offered an optional flat tax.
Even as they staked out opposing positions, it was clear both candidates feel Virginia voters are sick of Washington gridlock, and they made considerable efforts to peg themselves as willing to cross the center aisle.
Still, Allen couldn't resist jabbing Kaine when the topic du jour -- President Obama's health care law -- was brought up, and he promised to be the deciding vote to repeal the law if elected.
"My opponent believes this health care law is a 'great achievement,' " Allen said in a statement released after the ruling was released. "But I believe it's an infringement on individual liberty and free enterprise."