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Archive for December 2010

Hurt uses Wall Street Journal to rebut PolitiFact ruling

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Congressman-Elect Robert Hurt is not backing down. He still believes that the Federal Health Care Act is an example of a “government takeover” of health care. Hurt and many other Republican candidates and politicians were tagged by PolitiFact with the “lie of the year” because of this claim.

Here is our PolitiFact Virginia report on Congressman-elect Hurt:

Hurt has help in his fight against PolitiFact. In a rare move, the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote a scathing column hammering the media outlets that support PolitiFact. The Journal claims that PolitiFact went too far criticizing politicians who dubbed health care reform a government takeover and spelled out the reasons why they believe the Republican argument has merit.

In part the Journal points out how the Obama administration is using the PolitiFact report, (which was the national outlet’s “lie of the year”) to defend the plan and attack the GOP for questioning it. Their editorial board believes that PolitiFact is not the final word on health care debate and even questions the objectivity of the reporters who contribute to the program.

“Like other “fact checking” enterprises, its animating conceit is that opinions are what ideologues have, when in reality PolitiFact’s curators also have political views and values that influence their judgments about facts and who is right in any debate.”
-Wall Street Journal Editorial
PolitiFiction: True ‘lies’ about ObamaCare.

Hurt’s team is now using the Journal editorial to defend his statement.

Which side do you come out on? Chances are with much of today’s political debate (especially this issue) the answer probably hinges on where you stand on the issue.

Written by Ryan Nobles

December 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Tea Party leader Radtke files paperwork, will run for Senate

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Jamie Radtke, The former Chairwoman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation has filed paperwork and will stand for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate.

Radtke confirmed the information to me this morning.

While there are many presumed candidates, Radtke becomes the first to confirm that she will indeed enter the race. As of now, she is the only actual candidate for the seat. That includes the incumbent Democrat, Jim Webb who has yet to decide if he will run for re-election.

Radtke’s political profile skyrocketed in 2010 after she steered the organization of the very successful Virginia Tea Party Convention. The convention brought in thousands of political diehards from across the Commonwealth and hosted many high-profile national politicians. Radtke was front and center during the lead up to the convention and now appears on a regular basis to give her take on politics on national cable outlets like Fox News Channel.

Originally from Florida, Radtke is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and a stay at home mom to three children. She recently stepped down from her Tea Party post in what many presumed was designed to pave the way for her to mount a bid for the Senate.

While she is the first to jump into the race, it is expected that Radtke will be part of a very crowded Republican primary field. The biggest name being the former Senator and Governor George Allen, who has been crisscrossing the state and acting very much like a candidate. Allen has said he will announce his intentions sometime in early 2011, but few doubt he is anything but in.

Radtke will no doubt go after the conservative base of the Republican party, but she might have some competition from Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart, who has yet to formally announce his intentions, but has taken a few public shots at Allen and has formed his own political action committee. Also vying for the conservative base, Del. Bob Marshall who came within a few votes of upsetting former Governor Jim Gilmore for the nomination in 2008. That was during a convention, the 2012 GOP candidate will be decided in a primary. Bert Mizusawa, who lost out in a primary bid for the 2nd Congressional district seat is also mulling a run.

Keep in mind, this is for the 2012 election, which is close to two years away.

PolitiFact Virginia: McDonnell “flops” on VRS contributions

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During his campaign for Governor, Bob McDonnell made it very clear that he would not force State Employees to contribute to their pension plans. He spelled out that committment with a very direct statement on his campaign web site.

“The tough fiscal climate…is no excuse for breaking a longstanding commitment to the men and women who have dedicated their careers to the service of Virginia’s people”
-BobMcDonnell.com

But as he looks to balance the state’s budget, the situation with the state’s pension plan has gone from bad to worse. Without raising taxes, McDonnell has only one place to go to make the pension system solvent, the employees themselves. That is why he has proposed a plan to force employees to contribute 5% of their salaries to their pensions. The contribution would be offset with a 3% raise, but overall employees will see a 2% drop in their take home pay.

The reporters at the Richmond Times-Dispatch determined that this moves is a “full-flop” from McDonnell. You can read their entire report on PolitiFactVirginia.com.

But was that “flop” such bad thing? We ask that question in this week’s PolitiFact Virginia Report:

Written by Ryan Nobles

December 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

Posted in PolitiFact Virginia

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PolitiFact Virginia: Howell’s pants are on fire

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The Speaker of the House of Delegates William Howell is under the microscope this week in our PolitiFact Virginia report. During an appearance on “Freedom and Prosperity” Radio, Howell asserted that the Federal Government was making plans to force Americans to role private retirement over to the government to protect social security.

PolitiFact investigated that claim and found Howell’s assertion was so far off that his “pants are on fire”.

You can see their full report by clicking here.

This week’s PolitiFact Virginia report from NBC12 is below-

Written by Ryan Nobles

December 10, 2010 at 5:17 pm

McDonnell speeds up borrowing to invest $4 billion in transportation

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Gov. Bob McDonnell just revealed plans to invest an additional $4 billion in transportation over the next three years.  I’ll have more on this coming up on NBC12 News at 5 & 6.

**UPDATE** My full story on the new transportation proposal is posted on NBC12.com.

Democrats are already calling the plan “irresponsible”.
Read what Democratic House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong had to say here.
The new Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran issued this statement as well.

*UPDATE ends*

The full release from the Governor’s office can be found below:

——————————————————–

Governor McDonnell in Roanoke: $4 Billion for Transportation

Will Announce Full Transportation Plan Next Month

$400 Million for New Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank; Calls for Allowing Commonwealth to Issue $1.1 Billion in direct GARVEE Bonds; Issue up to $1.8 Billion in Additional Transportation Bonds by End of Administration

Governor: “Right Now is the Best Opportunity to Get Roads Built in Modern Virginia History.

ROANOKE- Governor Bob McDonnell previewed components of his transportation agenda for the 2011 General Assembly session today in a wide-ranging speech delivered at his Governor’s Transportation Conference in Roanoke. The Governor’s overall transportation vision focuses on maximizing all available resources and programs to get projects initiated during one of the most favorable road building periods in Virginia history. The Governor’s proposals, when fully implemented, would pump $4 billion into road, transit and rail projects in the Commonwealth over the next three years, dramatically speeding up congestion-reducing efforts and increasing job-creation and economic development efforts statewide.

Highlights of the Governor’s transportation proposals:

  • Direct $150 Million to transportation from budget surplus.  These one-time funds will go to the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank.
  • Pass a constitutional amendment to permanently protect the Commonwealth Transportation Fund from transfers to the General Fund.
  • Create “Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank” (VTIB) to multiply transportation dollars.
  • Capitalize Bank with $150 million from surplus and $250 million from audit-identified funds; Goal is to provide an initial $400 million and $1 billion total during administration.
  • Modify Virginia Code to authorize Direct GARVEE bonds. This would allow the Commonwealth to issue at least $1.1 billion in direct GARVEE bonds and utilize toll credits for state match.
  • Accelerate the sales of bonds from 2007 transportation legislation to max of $600 million per year, providing ability to issue up to $1.8 billion in bonds during remainder of the Administration. For every $100 million spent on highway maintenance, it is estimated 3,000 jobs are created or supported.
  • Increase the availability of Revenue Sharing, specifically eliminating the $1 million cap per project and $50 million program maximum.

Speaking about these proposals at the Transportation Conference the Governor noted, “I want to make clear, right now is the best time in modern Virginia history to get new roads and bridges built. First, construction prices have fallen dramatically due to competition and the state of the economy. Second, interest rates are at historic lows for our AAA bond rated state. Third, our citizens need the good jobs that will come with these projects. Fourth, we need to reduce congestion and build transportation infrastructure today.  We need to get dollars out the door quickly, and road, transit and rail projects underway now. Leveraging our scarce transportation resources to make them go further is smart management.”

The Governor continued, “Over the past two decades state support for transportation has not kept up with our growth as a Commonwealth. This has led to more congestion, longer commutes and missed economic opportunities. That trend must be reversed, and this is the time to do it. We have already, in just the first six months of this fiscal year, advertised almost double the amount of road work as during this same time period last year. By putting $4 billion into transportation over the next three years we will continue that progress, and get more Virginians back to work in the process. There is nothing partisan about road building. There are not Republican or Democratic roads. I hope that Republicans and Democrats will come together to back these responsible, and necessary, portions of our transportation plan. We can’t solve all of our transportation challenges all at once, but we can take significant steps forward over time. These portions of our plan are one of those steps, and implementing them will create good new jobs for our citizens today.”

Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton added, “In this kind of construction climate there is no acceptable reason to not get every possible resource deployed to transportation projects. We are getting deals now that would have been unheard of just a few years earlier, and the interest rates are at historic lows. This package will get projects underway, and Virginians will see the results all across the Commonwealth. In particular, the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank has the potential to revolutionize how projects are funded and moved forward in our state. Now, public and private sector entities will have a resource they can utilize to build projects that have previously not been funded, or underfunded. These transportation proposals are designed to speed up projects, and to maximize taxpayer dollars to the greatest extent possible. It will play a major role in driving the economic vitality of Virginia and getting our citizens back to work.”

Facts about the: “Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank”

  • Initially, the Bank would be capitalized with $250 million of audit-identified funds, and $150 million from the budget surplus.
  • Additional deposits will come from other sources, including future budget surpluses.
  • The Bank will provide an initial $400 million now and $1 billion total during this administration.
  • It will have a revolving loan fund for low interest rate loans and grants to localities, transportation and transit authorities, and private sector partners.
  • It would be able to leverage three to five times the amount of funds deposited into it.
  • Through grants, low interest loans and loan guarantees local governments can use the Bank to get their projects that have been not funded or underfunded in the current 6 year improvement plan.
  • Examples of local projects that would be candidates for funding from the Bank are Dominion Boulevard in Chesapeake, and I-95/I-395 Hot Lanes in Northern Virginia. They would be candidates because of several factors:

o   Toll revenues could repay loan

o   Strong local support

o   Right-size project

o   Locality top priority

Facts about Direct GARVEE Bonds

  • A GARVEE bond is a debt financed instrument that allows investors to be repaid through the use of future federal highway funds.
  • The legislative proposal will also include a recommendation to modify Virginia Code to authorize Direct GARVEE bonds.
  • Direct GARVEE bonds are sold for specific construction projects and use federal revenues for debt service.
  • This would allow the Commonwealth to issue at least $1.1 billion in direct GARVEE bonds and utilize toll credits for state match, freeing up cash for statewide and regional projects.
  • Several projects that may immediately benefit from the combination of the Direct GARVEE bonds and toll credits include the Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk, the Broad Street Corridor in Richmond, 460 PPTA projects, I-95/I-395 Hot Lanes in Northern Virginia, and the Coalfields Expressway, as well as others.

The McDonnell Administration Transportation Record

  • In April, the last of the Commonwealth’s previously closed rest areas were re-opened within 90 days as promised during the campaign, signaling that Virginia is Open for Business.
  • The Commonwealth obligated $694 million in stimulus projects on time by September 30th, 2010, after being ranked last in the country in disbursement of funds in the fall of 2009.
  • In April, the Commonwealth submitted a proposal to the Federal Highway Administration to allow Virginia to toll Interstate 95 at the North Carolina border. This proposal is supported by North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.
  • The Interstate 95 tolls will generate a minimum of $30 million annually, with likely revenues closer to $60 million.
  • Governor authorized issuance of $492 million in Capital Project Revenue Bonds in the summer of 2010. The bonds were authorized by the 2007 Transportation Act, but had not yet been authorized.
  • Yesterday, the Administration issued a multimodal strategic plan for Virginia’s transportation programs. This will create a road map for the future of transportation.
  • Governor directed four audits of Virginia’s transportation agencies and as a result a number of significant structural, policy and procedural changes to create new efficiencies and lessen the cost of doing business are being made.
  • One audit examined the PPTA program.
  • A new PPTA office has been created and new procedural guidelines implemented to streamline our process based on recommendations in KPMG’s audit of the Commonwealth’s PPTA program.
  • Comprehensive VDOT performance audit made over 50 recommendations to improve VDOT operations and identified $1.4 billion that can be invested in transportation projects.
  • Secretary Connaughton outlined comprehensive audit implementation plan last month.
  • The Governor announced Monday that VDOT will advertise more than 350 projects totaling $1.1 billion in construction and maintenance contracts by year’s end.  This is almost double the work advertised in the first six months of last year.
  • The Commonwealth has also increased advertisements for paving work by $250 million compared to last year.
  • This paving work will result in 50% more interstate lane miles, 15% more primary lane miles, and 65% more secondary lane miles scheduled for paving.
  • Virginia also obtained verbal approval to use our $450 million in federal toll credits, freeing up cash for other projects, as recommended by the audit.
  • The Commonwealth Transportation Board has been authorized to program over $500 million in federal revenue reserves to projects in the next six year improvement program.
  • Administration is taking a number of steps to move forward with critical projects throughout the state.
  • Working with private sector partners and localities to immediately move forward on the I-95/395 HOT Lanes project.
  • Over $71 million worth of spot improvements have been authorized by the CTB and are underway on I-66.
  • 495 Hot Lanes work is progressing.
  • Cooperating with public and private partners on Rail to Dulles; Phase 1 on Schedule for 2013.
  • Administration canceled the previously dormant Route 460 PPTA project, and is evaluating 3 new proposals for the critical congestion reducing and emergency and military preparedness project.
  • We expect to reach a comprehensive agreement with private sector partners on the Downtown Midtown Tunnel/MLK Extension project next year.
  • PPTA – Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is in beginning stages.
  • Just last week, along with Maryland Governor O’Malley and DC Mayor-elect Gray, in response to the Moving Metro Forward reports, the Governor requested a plan be put in place to optimize Metro’s safety, governance and efficiency. That plan should be done in the coming weeks.

###

Written by Ryan Nobles

December 9, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Allen calls attacks from potential GOP opponents “laughable”

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George Allen isn’t officially a candidate yet. However the man who has served at just about every level of Virginia politics is already being attacked like a front-runner. The problem is, that those attacks aren’t coming from Democrats, they are coming from his own party.

Allen was a rising conservative star in 2006 when he was upset by current Senator Jim Webb. Allen was floated as a candidate for President and was on top of the world, before Webb took advantage of a series of campaign gaffes and increasing angst of  Republicans and George W. Bush to knock him from his perch.

Since his surprising loss, Allen has been rebuilding his political image. He has been courting grass-roots Republicans, raising money and speaking about political issues. You would think that a man who proudly proclaimed his conservatism, even in environments where it wasn’t popular, would be the perfect fit for a resurgent GOP.

Unfortunately for Allen, many of those people who were his biggest supporters 4 years ago, would now like a crack at the GOP nomination in 2012 themselves.  Among them Corey Stewart, the Chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Stewart is not very known outside his constituency and the activists upset about illegal immigration.

Stewart has championed controversial laws in Prince William to reign in illegal aliens to the praise of Tea Party supporters. Stewart’s influence has risen enough where he feels bullish enough to consider a challenge to Allen in 2012 for the GOP nomination. He already has a political action committee and has already started attacking Allen, calling him a “mediocre” Senator.

Stewart isn’t alone. Conservative Delegate Bob Marshall feels Allen is vulnerable enough that he is considering a challenge and Richmond Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke is also mulling getting into the race.  Radtke even stepped down from her influential position as the Chair of the Virginia Tea Party Patriot group.

There are several other potential candidates as well.

All of these threats to his return to the top of the political mountain could not shake the smile of George Allen’s face.  Tuesday night, before speaking to a group of about 40 people in Richmond’s Southside, Allen told me that the idea that he isn’t conservative enough is “laughable”.

Allen pointed out how he is often sought out as a fundraiser for some of the very same people who attack him. However, he refused to counter their criticism with attacks of his own.

“I know all these other folks and I’m not going to speak ill of them,” Allen told me. ” I don’t understand why they are lashing out but that’s the way they are. I think what most people want to see for our country are leaders who have ideas that motivate and inspire people.”

Obviously Allen feels he is still the man to offer that inspiration.

An extend the clip from Allen’s comments on GOP attacks can be found below:

McDonnell to shut down state offices on 12/23, hold town hall

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Governor Bob McDonnell announced plans today to shut down state offices on December 23rd so that state employees could enjoy an additional day off with their families. The paid day off applies to all state workers. Those who work in agencies with alternating holiday schedules will receive 8 hours in compensatory time.

In an e-mail sent to state workers obtained by NBC12, McDonnell writes that the day off is his way of saying thank you for a year of hard work by the commonwealth employees.

“(The day off is) a small token of my thanks for your continued hard work and dedication to serving the citizens of our Commonwealth,” said McDonnell.

In addition to the day off, the Governor also announced plans to hold a state workforce “town hall”. The town hall would give employees the chance to sound off about their working conditions and give the McDonnell administration some ideas of how things can be improved.

Workers that can’t be in Richmond for the event can participate via the internet. They are also invited to email questions in advance.

The full e-mail from Governor McDonnell to the state workforce can be found below:

——————————————–

December 6, 2010

Dear Fellow State Employee:

The holiday season is upon us, and I want to make you aware of several things.

First, as a small token of my thanks for your continued hard work and dedication to serving the citizens of our Commonwealth, I am pleased to announce that I have approved an additional eight hours of time off during the holiday season. State offices will now be closed on December 23, 2010. Agencies that operate alternate holiday schedules should treat the additional eight hours as compensatory time.

In my Thanksgiving holiday message to you, I mentioned my plan to host a State Employee Town Hall in December. This Town Hall will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 in the Patrick Henry Building’s West Reading Room and will be streamed live on my website so state employees across the Commonwealth may participate. I encourage you to submit a question or comment via email to governor.ofvirginia @dhrm.virginia.gov. Registration for the Town Hall is being accepted on a first come/first served basis. I look forward to this opportunity to hear what matters to you most.

Finally, as a follow-up to the Employee Town Hall, I will be asking you to participate in an employee engagement survey in order to ensure that your hard work remains motivating and fulfilling. More information will be coming soon.

I wish you and your family a safe and joyous holiday season.

Sincerely,
Governor Robert F. McDonnell

Written by Ryan Nobles

December 6, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Posted in McDonnell Administration

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