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The Blue & Gray Press | October 23, 2017

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McDonnell’s Plans for Virginia Fictional and a Detriment to Virginia Taxpayers

By James Martin

Guest Columnist

Four years ago, Bob McDonnell was a delegate from Virginia Beach and was known for one thing: a radical social agenda. In fact, out of the hundreds of bills introduced by McDonnell in his time in the General Assembly, not one was to create a job or expand an educational opportunity. McDonnell is a graduate of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) School of Law (no, that’s not a joke), which was founded by Pat Robertson who famously concurred with his colleague Jerry Falwell in his statement that 9/11 was caused by “abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, [and] the American Civil Liberties Union”[1] (also not a joke).

McDonnell’s record in the General Assembly was defined by attempts to ban abortion, remove legal protections for woman, and eliminate any semblance of gay rights in the Commonwealth[2].  While attending CBN Law School, McDonnell articulated his core beliefs in a thesis called “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family”[3]. Among the things he said:

  • “[W]hen the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter.”
  • “Working women and feminists [are] ultimately detrimental to the family.”

He went on to say that a Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception for married adults was “illogical.” Needless to say, McDonnell holds views consistent with conservatives circa 1809, not 2009. So his consultants told him, “Bob, no one is going to vote for a candidate who has his head stuck in the 14th century… so let’s not talk about social issues and instead try to convince people that you have real ideas.” I don’t think even they understood the monster they were creating.

Watching Bob McDonnell campaign is a lot like watching the slickest of salesman try to sell snake oil. He claims he will spend billions in transportation, higher education, and secondary education without cutting any services or raising any taxes. In fact, McDonnell has proposed $20 billion in new spending… all money that will magically appear when he becomes governor (McDonnell has signed a No New Tax pledge[4], so he’s pretty much hoping money starts to grow on the Dogwood trees outside the Governor’s Mansion). McDonnell promises to perform this awe-inspiring miracle, yet provides nothing but rhetoric to back it up.

Here are some of McDonnell’s plans for Virginia:

Higher Education: McDonnell says he will create 100,000 additional new degrees in the next 10 years and will pay for them by creating “efficiencies” (his word) in the existing system (remember, no new taxes)[5].

Yet, Virginia’s colleges are already some of the most underfunded in the country and don’t have nearly the capacity to accommodate the enrollment. For example, for every dollar Virginia contributes to Higher Education beyond tuition, North Carolina contributes two for their in-state students, California contributes three for theirs, and New Mexico contributes four[6].

So let’s do the math. The state contributes roughly $6,000 per in-state student a semester, times eight semesters, times 100,000 new students and you get $4.8 billion.  To save $4.8 billion, you would have to completely shut the state’s three biggest schools, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and George Mason University, for the next decade (their combined funding equals $480 million a year)[7]. So that begs the question: Where are the 100,000 new students going to attend college when the equivalent of UVA, VT, and GMU combined are shut?

Transportation: McDonnell says that through “efficiencies”[8], diverting money from the general fund destined for Higher Education, and privatizing Virginia ABC stores, he can get Virginia moving again. Who knew it was so easy? Overall, McDonnell has pledged an additional $1.5 billion a year for the next 10 years for transportation.

Privatizing ABC stores will generate a onetime payout of about $500 million, but cost the state roughly $100 million a year in lost revenue[9] so over 10 years the state actually loses $500 million.

VDOT (the Virginia Department of Transportation) operates on-budget 93 percent of the time (up from 31 percent in 2002 when the last Republican Governor was in office) and has reduced the number of employees by 25 percent over the last eight years[10].

McDonnell would need to take out $15.5 billion from the General Fund (money for Higher Education) to pay for transportation. To pay for just half of that, he would have to eliminate the Virginia Community College System, ODU, CNU, Longwood, William and Mary, JMU, Virginia State, Norfolk State, and our University of Mary Washington[11] (where were those 100,000 new students going to go again?).

Jobs and the Economy: Bob McDonnell says he plans to double the size of the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, which attracts new business to Virginia (McDonnell calls the program “vital”)[12]. Fact Check: Bob McDonnell voted (not once, not twice, but THREE times) to eliminate the program while in the General Assembly. His Democratic opponent Creigh Deeds wrote the bill that created the Governor’s Opportunity Fund[13].

Call me old fashioned, but when a politician releases a plan, I expect it to at least meet the 2nd grade math test ($20 billion in new spending + No New Taxes = $20 billion hole and no new programs).

Also inconvenient for McDonnell and his no-tax pledge, we currently have one of the lowest spending levels in the country (much lower than our neighbors[14]), and it’s unconstitutional to run a budget deficit in Virginia, so he can’t finance his programs that way. But the math doesn’t matter; McDonnell’s plans have no rational basis in fact and are almost too wild to be fiction. Their existence is meant to hide the wolf in sheep’s clothing (hide the socially conservative fanatic in a problem solvers clothes) and to get McDonnell elected, not expand opportunity and get traffic moving again.

If his plans are bunk, what does his record suggest he will do as governor? Well Bob McDonnell said that working women were “detrimental to the family” and that women who worked outside the home were “selfish”[15], and voted against a bill to provide Equal Pay for Women in 2001[16]. He said government should enact policies to punish homosexuality (which he compared to drug use), voted twice to disallow gays and non-married couples to adopt children, championed the hateful Virginia Marriage Amendment in 2005 and 2006[17], said he wanted to ban birth control for married couples, introduced 35 bills to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and never once introduced a bill to create a job or expand an educational opportunity.

How about you fill in the blank as to what kind of Governor Bob McDonnell will be?


[1] Falwell apologizes to gays, feminists, lesbians, “Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club program, seemed to agree with Falwell’s earlier statements in a prayer during the program.” http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/14/Falwell.apology/

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/01/AR2009090103075.html

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/McDonnell_thesis_082909.pdf?sid=ST2009082902758

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/17/AR2009091704681.html?hpid=topnews

[5] Bob McDonnell’s Higher Ed Plan: http://www.bobmcdonnell.com/index.php/issues/higher_education/

[6] State Higher Education Funding: http://www.sheeo.org/finance/shef_fy07.pdf

[7] Virginia State Budget: http://leg1.state.va.us/091/bud/budsum/budhb1600.pdf

[8] Bob McDonnell’s Transportation Plan: http://www.bobmcdonnell.com/images/site_images/PDF_Forms/End_Gridlock_Create_Jobs_Get_Virginia_Moving_Again_FINAL_3.pdf

[9] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/21/AR2009072101807.html

[10] http://www.nvta.org/content.asp?contentid=1903

[11] Virginia State Budget: http://leg1.state.va.us/091/bud/budsum/budhb1600.pdf

[12] http://www.roanoke.com/politics/wb/222925

[13] http://www.deedsforvirginia.com/blog/press/2009/9/28/on-fox-mcdonnell-runs-from-facts

[14] http://www.census.gov/govs/statetax/05staxrank.html

[15] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/McDonnell_thesis_082909.pdf?sid=ST2009082902758

[16] http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/09/17/2073476.aspx

[17] http://www.bobmcdonnell.com/index.php/issues/protecting_families/