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McDonnell on health care, budget cuts and Cuccinelli

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell‘s optimism has not appeared to waver at all in his first few months in office. McDonnell remains steadfast in search of his pre-election goals despite facing the adversity of a difficult budget process and a highly polarized political climate.

I sat down with the Governor today for a lengthy interview about these challenges and how he would judge his progress on the lofty goals he has set for himself.

Here is a recap of some of the topics that we discussed.

Health Care
There is perhaps no greater issue in today’s political landscape than the debate over health care reform and McDonnell and the Commonwealth of Virginia are right in the middle of fray. McDonnell continues his steadfast opposition to the Washington plan, but admitted today that he needs to prepare Virginia in the event that the legal and political opposition to the plan fails. The Governor said without proper planning, Virginia could be in an even more difficult position.  “As the Chief Executive Officer of Virginia, I need to know, what does exactly mean for our state and what do we need to do to prepare for the fact that it may actually go forward and be implemented.”

Beyond the implementation of the policy itself, the Governor spoke at length about his concern over the level of discourse surrounding health care and politics in general. While he said that he “understood the frustration” of people upset about the direction of the country, he said that violence was never an option. Those threats came very close to the Governor, when the FBI announced the arrest of man with plans to kill his friend and fellow Republican leader Rep. Eric Cantor. Here is an excerpt of what the Governor had to say about the volatility connected to the political discourse in America.

Budget cuts
The one thing McDonnell promised the most on the campaign trail no new tax increases. A daunting pledge in the face of a horrendous budget picture. He stuck to that pledge, but was forced to add an additional $2.2 billion in cuts on top of $2 billion already proposed by Governor Tim Kaine. The cuts hit in many quality of life areas, such as education and health care. Teachers are facing bigger class sizes and programs are going away all together. In some communities, teachers have been responding by doing exactly what is required of them by their contracts with their districts. That strict interpretation of their responsibilities has made life difficult for parents and students. The Governor told me that is not the way he is hoping government employees respond to this crisis.

Economic development
Of course McDonnell is hoping that this budget crisis, brought on by an economic crisis won’t be permanent. The Governor was successful in passing through a number of legislative initiatives that he hopes will help the Commonwealth attract new business and by an extension jobs. One of the employers the Governor is hoping to attract is the monster government contractor Northrup-Grumman. The company is planning to relocate its headquarters from California to somewhere in or around Washington, D.C. by the end of 2011. McDonnell is still holding out high hopes that their final decision will be Northern Virginia.

McDonnell and Cuccinelli
Much has been written not only in the Virginia press, but nationally about the relationship McDonnell has with Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has taken a number of controversial stands on the issues of the day. Many political pundits have speculated that Cuccinelli’s bold work as Attorney General has rankled McDonnell, who has worked hard to paint himself as a common sense, center-right moderate. McDonnell said, there is nothing to these reports and that his working relationship with Cuccinelli couldn’t be better.

Written by Ryan Nobles

March 29, 2010 at 9:55 pm

McDonnell steps up support for Richmond charter school

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By: Ryan Nobles – bio | email

Governor Bob McDonnell is working overtime to get a fledgling Richmond charter school off the ground. City leaders and School Board members have been battling community members over the opening of Patrick Henry Charter School on Richmond’s Southside.

The school is set to open for classes in July, but is falling short in support from the school district, which has been lukewarm in some cases or  downright combative in others. Traditionally public school supporters have been resistant to the introduction of charter schools because they believe they bleed resources from other parts of the district that have desperate needs of their own.

Enter the state’s new Governor. Bob McDonnell has never shied away from his support for the development of charter schools and has found numerous opportunities to tout his support of President Barack Obama‘s “race to the top” program, which calls for the creation of a version of charter schools across the country. McDonnell is having a hard time pushing charter school funding through at the State Capitol, in part because his is being forced to subtract, not add to public school budgets.

However, one of the unique aspects of the charter school model is its aggressive approach to raising private donations to sustain its operation. Patrick Henry is no different. Supporters of the new school have solicited private donations to get the new operation off the ground and now McDonnell himself will become front and center in that effort.

As first reported by Chris Dovi and our friends at RVANews, McDonnell will headline a private, invite-only fundraiser in support of the Patrick Henry Charter School. NBC12 independently confirmed with the Governor’s office that McDonnell has agreed to take part.   The goal would be to help Patrick Henry raise the necessary funds to get the building open and secure a lease.

In addition to the very public support by the Governor, City Councilman Marty Jewell is working behind the scenes in an attempt to convince city school leaders that opening Patrick Henry is in everyone’s best interest. Jewell sent a letter to Kim Bridges, one of the school board members who has expressed concerns about the development of charter schools. In the letter Jewell pleads with Bridges “to urgently embrace fundamental change in educational delivery.” Jewell asks Bridges and the board to consider a financial committment to get Patrick Henry’s doors open.

A transcript of Jewell’s letter to Bridges can be found after the jump..

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

March 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Kaine announces layoffs, furloughs for state workers

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It wasn’t a surprise, but Tuesday, Gov. Tim Kaine announced his plan to address the Commonwealth’s growing budget gap. He announced $1.35 billion in cuts today. Those cuts will have a human impact. Close to 600 workers will be laid off and every state employee will be required to take 8 hours in unpaid furlough time.

NBC12 has been covering the story all day today. Andy Jenks will have a live report during our 5pm and 6pm newscasts.

You can see Governor Kaine’s entire press conference on the issue,  uncut, by clicking here.

During First at Four, I interviewed Ronald Jordan, the President of the Virginia Governmental Employees Association. He gave me a very frank assessment of the state’s situation. You can see that entire interview by clicking here.

Perhaps the most interesting quote from Mr. Jordan:

“The days of the cushy, permanent state job left about 15 years ago.”

Tonight we will look at the impact the cuts will have on higher education. The rollbacks could hit local institutions to the tune of 15%.

I’ll have more updates as they come available.

Written by Ryan Nobles

September 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Kaine: “We’ve done the best we can”

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kaine-budget-dayGovernor Tim Kaine just wrapped up a lengthy press gaggle where he discussed the end of his final legislative session as the Virginia’s top elected official. As you might imagine, the discussion was centered around the budget.

Kaine said that this was the most difficult budget process Virginia has had to face in “many, many years”. He said he was happy that despite the challenges this budget presented that the final product turned out to be closest to the one he had originally submitted of any during his tenure.

The Governor gave the most credit to his friend in the White House Barack Obama. Kaine said that if not for the Obama stimulus plan, the state would be in much worse shape than it turned out to be. He quantified the $800 million used to fill holes in the budget plan but pointing to the impact it would have in just one area: state personnel. He said that without the cash, 7,100 state employees would’ve been laid off and he would have been force to institute furlough across the board.

Some of what the Governor had to say is after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

March 1, 2009 at 2:42 am

House Passes Budget

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The Virginia House of Delegates just passed the state budget  by a vote of 90-8. The Senate is now in  the process of passing the same bill as well. If that goes as planned the next step is the Governor’s desk.

Governor Tim Kaine is scheduled to meet with the media at 6:30 tonight. We will have a crew there and have more during our 11pm news.

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 28, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Budget could be passed by 4pm

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Lawmakers at the state capitol struck a deal last night that could mean that session will end on time. Today is supposed to be the final day of votes for this short session, and both houses are expected to take up the new agreed to budget plan as soon as 4pm.

We will have the latest on the budget process, including what changes that have been made that could impact you tonight on NBC12 news at 6pm.

**UPDATE** The House of Delegates is in recess until 5pm. The Senate until 4:30pm. No budget votes are expected until then and it could go even later. (quick updates at twitter.com/ryanobles)

Here is the AP’s story on where the budget stands right now:

RICHMOND, Va . (AP) – House and Senate budget negotiators reached a tentative midnight agreement Friday on amendments to the state’s cash-starved $77 billion budget.

The accord leaves in doubt whether the General Assembly will take a rushed final vote on the 16-month spending blueprint late Saturday or adjourn late for the sixth time in eight years.

Six senators and six House members bickered right up to the moment they sealed the deal with a handshake minutes before 12 a.m.

The consensus the two sides reached uses about $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money to offset a $3.7 billion shortfall, the deepest on record in Virginia.

It would restore most of the cuts a plunging economy and poor tax collections forced on health care, public safety and education.

(c) 2009. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Can handball courts turn into stimulus?

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handballYou are probably wondering what a picture of me playing handball has to do with Virginia’s portion of the federal stimulus plan. Tonight at 11 on NBC12, I hope to show you.

At the beginning of February Governor Kaine unveiled a new website designed to give average Virginians the chance to submit proposals (however wacky they may be) as to how the stimulus money should be spent. I spend a good portion of today pouring over the submissions, which at this point number close to 4,000.

Their are many legitimate ideas, that include widening sections of highways, building new schools, and countless other examples of the FDR style infrastructure investments that President Barack Obama has proposed. But as you might imagine there are plenty of other ideas that can be described as either innovate or insane depending on your perspective.

Tonight at 11, I will introduce you John Bragg, an energetic idea man who submitted a proposal to the government’s website hoping to receive funding. His proposal involved me playing handball. Tune in to see his plan.

It’s not too late to submit your proposal for funding. Just go to the government’s website site: www.stimulus.virginia.gov and follow the directions. They must be submitted by Friday March 6th.

After the jump you will find some of the proposals I found particularly interesting.

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Written by Ryan Nobles

February 26, 2009 at 1:40 am

Posted in State Budget

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Preserve, protect and create jobs

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Ryan Nobles – bio | email

I just got done interviewing Rep. Eric Cantor about tonight’s Presidential address by Barack Obama. We talked about a wide range of topics including the President’s plan to increase taxes on the wealthy and the merits of bi-partisanship. I also got his take on how he feels the stimulus money (which will come from a plan he voted against) should be spent in Virginia.

A number of prominent Republican governors across the country have talked about not taking some or all of the  stimulus money. Some GOP lawmakers in Richmond have criticized Governor Tim Kaine‘s plan to fill a large gap in the state’s budget with stimulus cash.

Cantor’s take was simple. If the money won’t be specifically be used to “Preserve, protect or create jobs” it should be left on the table.

Listen to the entire soundbite, and read the transcript after the jump.

**DON’T FORGET TO JOIN IN TONIGHT AT 8:45 at www.nbc12.com FOR OUR LIVEBLOG OF THE OBAMA SPEECH**

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 25, 2009 at 12:17 am

One Local School District Forecasts Big Layoffs

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We are just starting to truly understand the real impact of Governor Tim Kaine‘s proposed cuts to education. While the Governor is proposing a broad set of cuts in many different sectors, education is far and away the largest portion of the budget. It is impossible to fill a $3 billion dollar hole, without education feeling some pain.

Governor Kaine has repeatedly said that his goal is to avoid hurting instruction. He believes he can cut, what could be anywhere from $400 to $700 million without major changes to the classroom. Education experts we have talked to say that isn’t possible. On Friday, we talk to one superintendent who is already starting to calculate the cost.

Dr. Charles Maranzano is the superintendent at Dinwiddie County Public Schools. (You can see his blog by clicking here) A small school district with about 750 employees. Early estimates show Maranzano will be forced to trim close to $3 million dollars from his budget. He told me he simply cannot do that without taking some from the classroom. (73% of his budget is spent on cost directly associated to instruction). As it stands now, Dinwiddie is preparing to cut 59 positions. 34 of which will be teachers. A real illustration of where the pain will be felt. 

Now of course with $3 billion still to cut, it has to come from somewhere. I asked Dr. Maranzano, if not from education than from where? He says the education community will be able to absorb some cuts, but he believes the Governor needs to explore other sources of revenues. He suggested placing tolls on some roadways, or more tax increases above and beyond just his proposal to tax cigarettes.

You can see my report from Friday night by clicking here..   Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Nobles

January 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Posted in State Budget

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