McDonnell discusses wide range of issues in live interview
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was my live guest Monday on NBC12 First at Four. It was his first live television interview since taking the oath of office as the Commonwealth’s 71st Governor. The Governor discussed his plans for his response to President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union on Wednesday, as well as his plans for transportation, same-sex benefits for state employees and the Virginia’s budget gap.
Here are some excerpts from our discussion.
On the GOP response to the State of the Union: Governor McDonnell talked about how, his plan is not to upstage the Governor, but instead to point out where difference lie, for instance “Just a better balance of federalism between the state and local governments. I think Washington is trying to do too much, too fast, invading the provinces of the states and I think there are other Governors that think the same thing.” McDonnell also said that his response will be given in front of a live audience. This is a break from the traditional State of The Union response that is usually given in a private room with no audience.
On the state budget crisis: The Governor pointed out, as he often does, that the economic crisis is still very real and difficult problem and that Governor Kaine did the best he could, given the conditions. But despite his “appreciation” for Kaine’s efforts, he has no interest in picking up where he left off by carrying his budget plan forward. “I have said that we should not raise taxes, it was a 97-0 vote, Republicans and Democrats agree we should not have a general fund tax increase.” When it comes to specifics, McDonnell is hoping that his Executive Order #2- which will create a government reform committee will net the state big savings, as well as long-term revenue boosts that could come from privatizing the ABC stores. The Governor envisions $2 billion in cuts will be needed to balance the budget and he said that he is meeting with legislative leaders every day to come up with a plan.
On extending same-sex benefits to the partners of state employees. For background on this question, check out this story from December by the Washington Post’s Anita Kumar. Essentially former Governor Kaine proposed a plan that would extend benefits to non married partners of state employees. It would include not only same-sex couples, but heterosexual roommates as well. The plan would take 18 months to enact, meaning it is all on the new Governor’s watch. McDonnell seemed uninterested in wading into this question telling me that he hasn’t gotten an opportunity to review the proposal. “We are getting advice from the Attorney General as to whether that change in the regulatory structure is legal. Obviously initiatives that we can provide in state government that can expand access to health care at a lower costs is a good thing.” Even when I pressed the Governor a bit on the issue, asking if was not “off the table”, McDonnell didn’t provide much clarity. “We just haven’t taken a look at it yet, because these other things are such high priorities, but we’ll get to that eventually.”
Transportation: This was one of, if not the most important issue of the campaign. If it wasn’t the key ingredient to Bob McDonnell’s success, it may have played a major role in Creigh Deeds’ demise. While McDonnell talked transportation a lot on the campaign trail, he has been relativity quiet about the issue since taking office. (Granted it has been only 8 days). Today, I gave him the chance to explain exactly when he will begin to enact his plan. The short answer is, he won’t really attack the issue for another 60 days. “In due course, when I have a chance to build consensus around our funding package, I will ask the General Assembly to do it. It may be a special session, it may be next year. But we will make it a priority within the first year.”
To see the entire interview with McDonnell click here.