McDonnell on health care, budget cuts and Cuccinelli
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.
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.
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.
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.