House Republicans

Will Session End On Time?

When the House of Delegates and Senate passed their respective budgets several days ago, the most glaring difference between the two, as anticipated, was the two chambers' approaches to Medicaid expansion. To wit, Obamacare in Virginia. The Senate included expanding Obamacare in its budget despite agreement last year with the House that the issue would be kept separate from the budget so it wouldn't become a stumbling block to passing a future budget. The agreement consisted of the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which has the authority to make recommendations to the General Assembly concerning expansion. Its charter is to formulate necessary reforms for the abuse- and fraud-ridden program that state and federal governments must accept before Medicaid expansion gets anywhere near a floor vote for approval.

MIRC has yet, after almost a year's work, to draft its recommendations for reform. Instead, it continued its efforts for another year. Despite last year's agreement and MIRC's continuation, three Senate Republicans — John WatkinsWalter Stosch and Emmett Hanger — joined all 20 Democrats to passing the Senate budget with Medicaid expansion in it. The Senate and Governor Terry McAuliffe want to backtrack on last year's arrangement and want Obamacare expanded immediately.

To emphasize its position, House Republicans offered a budget floor amendment, modeled after the Senate expansion plan. It promptly went down 67-32. House Republicans have maintained that it would be irresponsible to expand Obamacare because future costs would be so great that it could cripple the state budget.

They also argue that the program is wrought with inefficiency and fraud and have proposed a first-ever outside audit before any expansion can take place. By example, former Governor Tim Kaine refused a VDOT audit for his four years and closed rest stops and other unnecessary cuts. After he left office, the audit House Republicans sought finally took place and revealed more than $1 billion in waste. There's no telling how much waste an audit of Medicaid would uncover since it is much larger than VDOT — about 21 percent of Virginia's budget and growing fast.

Most insiders in Richmond believe that the battle over Obamacare expansion will leave the state without a budget well into spring, if not longer. A new budget must be adopted by June 30 or state government could theoretically "shut down" July 1. Governor McAuliffe has stated that he intends to veto any budget sent to him that does not include Obamcare expansion and willingly shut down state government in order to get his way — not this session's much referenced, bipartisan-and-honor-your-agreements buzz phrase, "Virginia Way." That means police and fire departments without funding, teachers without pay and roads unpaved, among other disruptions.

A few days after the House passed its budget, reports surfaced that that Governor McAuliffe threatened vetoes of legislators' unrelated bills if they didn't go along with expansion,  something his office quickly denied. But delegates took to the floor later to recount the governor's bullying tactics and threats.

The House and Senate remain in conference in an attempt to settle their budget differences. But if conferees cannot come up with a solution before March 8, the General Assembly will have to adjourn without a budget — an unprecedented scenario that is growing more likely by the hour during this last week of session. Also, should a budget not pass, or a budget pass without the continuation of the MIRC, some believe that the governor will unilaterally expand Obamacare. That action could result in litigation, leaving it up to Attorney General Mark Herring to choose sides on the issue.

If it all sounds like Washington style politics and not "The Virginia Way," you're right. It's what many predicted during the campaign if Governor McAuliffe was elected. Be prepared to watch this battle go on well into the spring, and beyond.

Virginia, and "The Virginia Way," isn't for shutdowns. But it may come to that. 

Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Taxed Christmas Tree!

As if there isn't enough apprehension about the economy these days, as if the popular culture hasn't already transformed the Christmas season from one of Christian joy to one of commercial anxiety, Congress may yet Scrooge over one of the most endearing activities of the season, the one purchase people genuinely look forward to: the buying of a Christmas tree. Yes, Virginia, there is a tax clause in the new farm bill. An agreement between House and Senate negotiators ironing out differences between the respective chambers' versions of a new farm bill includes a per-tree tax on Christmas tree growers. The growers then will pass it on to Christmas tree retailers who will, in turn, pass it on to consumers. Trickle down government at its convoluted best.

Good grief, Charlie Brown, you blockhead. You owe Congress a Christmas tree tax!

You may remember that President Barack Obama attempted this a few years ago, but the country's Bob Cratchits rose up and the idea was as warmly received as egg nog past its sell-by date. Now, however, a Christmas tree tax may be a stocking stuffer from House Republicans to Senate Democrats in order to reach a deal in an attempt to pass a farm bill that Republicans say must trim food stamp spending.

Amy Payne explains at The Heritage Foundation's The Foundry blog:

Congress might as well throw in a jingle bell tax, too. That’s how farm-related a lot of the “farm” bill is. The "farm" policies Congress is considering include:

» 80 percent food stamps: The House bill would make modest changes to this welfare program, but the Senate would do virtually nothing to rein in the massive growth in food stamp spending.

» Ultra-high-speed broadband access for rural areas.

» Policies that actually drive up food prices for Americans.

» Giving money to farmers for doing absolutely nothing.

Congress may agree to consider a new farm bill any time now. As it is, taxpayers could be looking at a trillion-dollar, subsidy-filled disaster — complete with a Christmas tree tax. Humbug.

If House Republicans think they're going to get real welfare reform from Senate Democrats in a "farm bill" for a mere Christmas tree tax, they probably really do believe in (spoiler alert for the children) Santa Claus. Sorry, Virginia.

Oh, (taxed) Christmas Tree! Sing the word "taxed" at the appropriate time during this video. Why not? According to the singer, there are many versions of this song. Congress may have inspired a new one.

Song Dedication To Harry Reid: "I'm Just A Bill"

Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Barack Obama — and all, it seems, of liberaldom — have forgotten how a bill becomes a law, here's a brief remedial course on lawmaking dedicated to them. The House of Representatives has done its job. If Senate Democrats don't agree, pass your own version, go to a conference committee and work out the differences. (There's one continuing resolution to keep open the government ready for conference, but Senator Reid refuses to appoint conferees.) Bills don't get passed at news conferences where idealess liberal senators name call and demonize some of their colleagues and House Republicans. (Same goes true for certain Senate Republicans.) How ironic that the self-proclaimed intellectual and sensitive party resorts to calling its opponents "terrorists," "hostage takers," "arsonists," "extortionists," "unhinged," "insane," and people with a "bomb strapped to their chest," among many others (see LegalInsurrection.com). If you want to negotiate, do it the constitutionally prescribed way. Oh, and one other thing . . . our little course in lawmaking includes prayer, doubtless a word that would be left out if this cartoon was made today, but something both sides should probably engage in.

Harry Reid, Barack Obama and others in Washington think bills are passed by holding news conferences and calling their opponents names. They need a remedial class in civics — and civility.

Avoiding The Fiscal Cliff: If Clinton-Era Tax Rates Are Good, Why Not Clinton-Era Spending Levels, Too?

In the aftermath of the campaign almost all of Washington's attention has focused on the "Fiscal Cliff." House Republicans, still solidly in charge and, for the time being, remembering that it is the House that is constitutionally charged with initiating money bills, remains opposed to tax rate increases. President Obama, on the other hand, seems to think he won a mandate to soak the rich. In fact, he's soaking everyone. Little known to the average Joe and Jane is that Obamacare has several crippling tax increases that don't take effect until 2013 or 2014, including several on the darling middle class that he speaks so majestically about saving. (Or "rebuilding," as if the government can manufacture an entire economic class of people, as if people are roads to be built — maybe, because with this president, it always seems to come down to the need to "build roads, bridges and infrastructure" even when "they weren't as shovel ready as we thought.")

One of these tax increases, which is completely non-sequitor to health care, is a 3.8 percent surtax on any gains after selling a house. Talk about "rebuilding." How does he expect to kickstart the housing industry when people, wanting to sell their house to, perhaps, accomodate a growing family, or realize a profit after a lot of sweat equity, gets hammered with a new tax, the money of which would otherwise go toward buying their new house?

So President Obama's rhetoric about raising taxes on the rich while maintaining the current tax rates on the middle class as part of any deal to avoid the fiscal cliff is disingenuous. But that's not the worst of of it. His ad nauseum, rote, teleprompter induced refrain that the spectrum of tax rates he proposes are the same as they were during the economically good years during the Clinton administration are absent of one key fact: Spending was about half of what it is now. Funny how that's never mentioned.

If the president wants to go back to the income tax rates of "the Clinton years" then we should go back to the spending levels of those same years. Is it just me, or is it odd that this rather important part of the equation is omitted from President Obama's talking points; that the mainstream media, and even conservatives, seem to neglect it. So while we're going to go back to "Clinton era" income tax rates (by letting the "Bush tax rates" — which the president himself renewed two years ago — expire if no deal is reached by January 1) let's go back to that period's same spending levels. That would result in real spending reductions of about $1.5 trillion a year, which would come close to, if not actually, balance the yearly budget (if the Senate would ever pass a budget). Then, maybe, we can have an honest discussion about avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.

Cox, Janis Fill Out GOP Leadership Team In House Of Delegates, But What About The Office Space?

Yesterday, the Republican Caucus in the House of Delegates elected Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) to majority leader and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) to majority whip. The election was necessary (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog) after current Majority Leader Morgan Griffith was elected to the House of Representatives from Virginia's 9th congressional district, defeating 28-year incumbent Rick Boucher during last month's Republican wave. Cox was the majority whip. Both were unchallenged (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). Statements from the principles include this from Speaker Bill Howell (R-66, Fredericksburg) (see entire statement, here):

Both of these individuals are trusted allies and talented lawmakers with remarkable backgrounds that they’ve used to help House Republicans offer practical solutions and deliver real results.

Kirk is an outstanding member of the House who I rely on . . .  for thoughtful analysis and strategic insights on the important challenges and opportunities facing taxpayers, families, businesses and Virginia. Not only is he a widely acknowledged "go-to" person on the state budget, education, military and natural resource issues, but Kirk also has done a superb job as House Majority Whip counting votes and building support for our ideas.

Likewise, Bill is an engaged and detail-oriented delegate who contributes so much to our Caucus and Commonwealth. His service on key House committees has provided Bill with a firm understanding of the issues and how they impact people of all walks of life. I’m confident that he will continue helping to identify policy goals and forge coalitions in support of sensible legislation that will improve the quality of life for all Virginians.

From Cox:

We have many challenging years ahead with tight budgets and a need to grow private sector jobs. I look forward to working hard with House Republicans and all of my legislative colleagues to address these challenges and the aspirations of the people of Virginia as the next House Majority Leader.

From Janis:

I relish the opportunity to serve as the new House Majority Whip. Together, we’re going to help put Virginians back to work by promoting legislation that fosters an environment conducive to more job growth, more economic opportunity and more prosperity for all Virginians.

Okay, the formalities are out of the way. Now, the question is, what will happen to some very valuable General Assembly Building real estate? Delegate Cox — now one of the most powerful delegates ever outside of a speaker as majority leader and vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee — already has a large and prestigious ninth floor GAB office per his role on Appropriations. But as majority leader, he also will have a large and prestigious suite on the sixth floor where the leaders of both parties and chambers have offices. Which will he choose? Or can he keep both? If he chooses the ninth floor, will Delegate Janis get the sixth floor office (whips don't have offices there)? If he chooses the sixth floor, who gets the ninth floor office?

These are the intriguing questions that drive the General Assembly. We'll keep you posted.

Poll: Griffith Pulls Even With Boucher In 9th Congressional District

Of the four Congressional races targeted by the Republican Party of Virginia this year, the one in the legendary "Fightin' Ninth" seemed the most difficult. Incumbent Democrat Rick Boucher has held the seat for 28 years and GOP challenger Morgan Griffith, the House of Delegates Majority Leader, got a late start in the campaign and wasn't nearly as well funded. But anyone who knows Delegate Griffith knows he's a tenacious worker and despite the pile of money spent against him by Mr. Boucher and outside left-wing interest groups such as NARAL, he has methodically made his way back into the race. Starting from 20 points down, to eight, then four and now . . . according to a poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee . . . it's even at 44 percent.

The poll was one of many House Republicans conducted to gauge which campaigns around the country are now in play for them. The field is expanding, where even long-time lefties such as Barney Frank and Jim Oberstar have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money this late into the game (a sign that even Dems don't want to go down with them). The news comes from Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post's The Fix blog, where he keeps readers up to date on races across the country. The question in the Commonwealth is whether Virginians in the great Southwest want to to spend years 29 and 30 with Rick Boucher (see YouTube).

Bolling Op-Ed Offers Ideas On Economy To President Obama

In Sunday's Roanoke Times, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling offered up an op-ed with some basic, sound ideas for improving the economy to President Obama in what amounted to an open letter. He provided seven suggestions to the president's economic team, but the likelihood of the administration adhering to any of them is slight at best. After all, not only is this the most ideologically left-wing rooted president in history . . . but he doesn't have an ecomomic team. They've all resigned (Business & Media Institute). Just in case someone remained behind, the White House should take heed from someone who, in his role of Chief Jobs Creation Officer, meets with people every day who create jobs, not theoriticians who have worked in government their entire lives. The country is overtaxed, over regulated and feels the weight of the behemoth government suffocating the life out of our economic system.

Among the ideas offered by the LG are to extend all of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and provide additional tax relief, reign in the job-killing EPA and relax restrictive regulations preventing banks from lending money to businesses for expansion. He also advocates repealing "those portions of the federal health care bill that impose massive mandates, fines and penalties on businesses." That may be almost all of the new law, but he should have stated simply that it should be repealed in its entirety.

Lastly, Mr. Bolling wisely suggests a reduction of federal spending by at least  five percent per year until it reaches 2006 levels. A good start, and better than the House Republicans' "Pledge To America" which plans to bring  spending down to the 2008 level. But the federal budget was in the $2.5 trillion range even in 2006. There is much more fat to be cut.

If Republicans do succeed in winning control of either or both chambers of Congress, it's first test will be to prove their seriousness in significantly reducing the size and scope of governement and to provide a glide path down to solvency.

While Obama Cuts The Military In Virginia, Raises Taxes On Everyone, Why Not A Fat BRAC?

Nothing unites Republicans and Democrats faster than a pair of magnets than military base closures in their states. Last week was no different when Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced he would close (see Army Times) the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk as part of a pare down in defense spending. On cue, a bipartisan group of Virginia's Congressional delegation, including both senators, rushed to JFCOM's defense (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). At risk is as many as 6,000 jobs in Virginia. (The conspiracy theory is that Virginia is being targeted by the Obama administration for its aggressive legal challenges to the health care law and the unilateral cap and trade policy implemented by the EPA.)  Secretary Gates has the unenviable task of convincing Congress (other states will face cuts as well) — during a recession his boss has exacerbated, if not created — that the Defense Department's mission is to protect the country and not create jobs. He may well be right, but while JFCOM may or may not be needed, while he's cutting fat out of the military, why isn't his boss cutting fat everywhere else

Several years ago, Congress created the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to target base closings to save money and submit those recommendations to Congress for an up or down vote, because the normal appropriation process presented a more formidable barrier than the Great Wall of China. Congressmen would trade votes to protect bases in each others' districts, regardless of the merits. Political cowardice aside, it still amazes me that Washington insiders are willing to cut the military to save a few billion dollars out of a nearly $3.5 trillion budget, of which $1.5 trillion is borrowed money, while not cutting anything nearly as important

If Congress can pass the buck to a commission to cut the fat out of the Pentagon, then why not create a commission to cut the fat out of non-defense spending? Call it the Fat BRAC. There are numerous reports by think tanks and watch dog groups, as well as individual congressmen, of deplorable spending (see McCain-Coburn Report). A commission easily could mold these findings into a package of cuts for an up or down vote.

While the Obama administration wants to raise taxes on almost everyone in the middle class and up by letting the 2001 and 2003 tax rate reductions expire, to generate $700 billion over several years (assuming the tax increase doesn't jack up the unemployment rate above 10 percent), it increased spending more than one trillion dollars in one year — $787 billion in one fell swoop with the so-called stimulus bill (more when you factor in interest on the additional debt it created.) That's arrogance and irresponsibility of the highest order. The waste in that bill (and other bills) is of deplorable and unprecedented proportions.

There is something you can do, however. As we mentioned in this post, House Republicans started YouCut, a chance to tell Congress what programs you want to see it eliminate. Each week House Republicans post a list of programs citizens want cut. The GOP Conference brings to the floor the one with the most votes. Hundreds of thousands of people vote each week. We have a permanent link to YouCut on the lower right side of this site. We encourage you to take an active role in this and make your voice heard. Then think about writing your representative and Virginia's two senators, and tell them you want a BRAC for Big Fat Federal Spending.

One Down, 39 To Go?

Republicans need to gain 40 seats in November's midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives. Ten percent of that goal is in Virginia, where targeted incumbent Democrats Rick Boucher (VA-9), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Glenn Nye (VA-2) and Tom Perriello (VA-5) are being challenged by House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, Keith Fimian, Scott Rigell and Virginia Senator Robert Hurt, respectively. Connolly, Nye and Perriello all are freshmen and Perriello may be the number one GOP target in the entire country given his razor thin victory in 2008 and the 5th's generally conservative leanings (Charlottesville Daily Progress). Perhaps no House win pleased liberals more. Now, according to a poll released yesterday by SurveyUSA for Roanoke television station WDBJ, Representative Perriello may be toast (see American Prospect's Tapped Blog and the Washington Post's Virginia Politics Blog). It shows the 5th to be a blowout already: Hurt up by a 58-35 margin (see National Review Online's Campaign Spot Blog).

While many GOP House candidates are polling well, few have the numbers that elicited a "WOW" from NRO's Jim Geraghty. Of course, polls this early can mean anything and the pros will say SurveyUSA is not a top tier pollster on the lines of Mason-Dixon or Rasmussen Reports. But, SurveyUSA was the first to poll Virginia last summer (51 weeks ago, to be exact) and it had all three statewide races right from the beginning to the very end, including double digit leads when all the more "reputable" polls showed it closer. In fact, one political pro told me the SurveyUSA results were "embarrassing," but the only people embarrassed last November were the doubters and the Democrats.

The numbers are even more astounding considering a hard fought Republican primary, a Libertarian candidate and some TEA Party dissatisfaction with Senator Hurt. (SurveyUSA breaks down its research here.) It admits it has factored Republican turnout to be much greater than Democrat turnout (not surprising since when comparing the U.Va. student drop-of from 2008, where Perriello benefited from a large Barack Obama student turnout, to 2009). However, SurveyUSA says even if it factors in a 50-50 Republican-Democrat turnout, Hurt still wins by 11 points. At this point. (Which would allow the GOP to focus on the other three seats.) But, if the trend holds, it's a remarkable sign for House Republicans — and one down and 39 to go.

Speaking Of Earmarks, Goodlatte To Offer Moratorium Resolution This Week

Speaking of earmarks and Congressional attempts to ban them, at least for a year, I just received this from Fourth District U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.): It's a resolution that Sixth District Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will introduce this week to ban earmarks in the House. Now that both the Republican and Democrat caucuses in that chamber are on record as wanting to end the pork practice, we'll see who is serious about truly ending it.

RESOLUTION

Expressing the sense of Congress that House Democrats should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year, that total discretionary spending should be reduced by the amount saved by earmark moratoriums and that a bipartisan, bicameral committee should be created to review and overhaul the budgetary, spending and earmark processes.

WHEREAS families all across our nation must make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford;

WHEREAS government officials should be required to exercise an even higher standard when spending taxpayers’ hard-earned income;

WHEREAS Thomas Jefferson once wrote: "To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude;

WHEREAS our national debt is at its highest rate ever;

WHEREAS the federal budget deficit is projected to exceed $1 trillion for the next two fiscal years and hover around $800 billion annually for the foreseeable future;

WHEREAS current levels of spending are simply unsustainable;

WHEREAS it is time for Congress to wake up and see that the federal deficits and the national debt have reached crisis status;

WHEREAS Congress must control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, rather than allow big spenders to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and in doing so leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own;

WHEREAS House Republicans have adopted a one year total moratorium on all Congressional earmarks: Now therefore be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that —

(1) The entire membership of the House should join House Republicans in a total ban on earmarks for one year;

(2) Discretionary spending should be reduced in the FY 2011 Budget by the total amount that was spent on requests for earmarks in FY 2010;

(3) In the event that spending in the FY 2011 Budget is not so reduced by the amount spent for earmarks in FY 2010, an amendment to the budget resolution to effectuate this change must be made in order; and

(4) A complete review and overhaul of the Congressional budgetary, spending and earmark processes should be commenced by creating a bi-partisan, bicameral committee to study the issue and report back with recommendations.

Senators Webb And Warner: Virginia's Proud Porkers!

Virginia's two U.S. Senators, Jim Webb and his junior, Mark Warner, (click to contact), despite their protestations to the contrary — and sophistry about being "raging moderates" — proved they are not "fiscal conservatives" when they voted Tuesday night against a modest reform that would have banned earmarks for one year. But when you also have voted for a half-trillion dollars in new taxes and $1 trillion in new spending in a government takeover of the health care industry, what's several billion dollars more? The issue was an amendment by U.S. Senator Jim Demint (R-S.C.) to ban earmarks for one year. House Republicans last week adopted a policy as a caucus that no member would offer an earmark for a year until earmark reform could be worked out. House Democrats followed suit with a vague promise of their own to ban earmarks (but who needs an earmark when you can ram through a trillion-dollar health care takeover), but I digress. The vote was 68-29 against the Demint amendment, with 15 Republicans joining all but four Democrats (see the list) to defeat it. However, it was the first time a majority of Senate Republicans supported the measure. Politico.com reports on the vote here, in an article entitled "The Senate's proud porkers."

So, while their political brethren in Richmond went on a fiscal diet, actually cutting spending down to 2006 levels in the recently passed Virginia budget, Senators Warner and Webb continued to pig out in Washington. Should make them a hit at the annual Virginia Pork Festival in Emporia, should they attend. But some would say the pork festival is in Washington and is an on going affair — with Virginia's two senators among those having the most fun.

Senator Jim Demint asked Congress for a timeout on pork spending. Senators Webb and Warner, though, were having too much fun at the trough to stop.

Dr. Bob Holsworth Interview, Part 1

Below is the first part of a two part interview with nationally known political scientist Dr. Bob Holsworth, a regular commentator on Virginia and national politics. His articles and commentary can be read in publications and on the Internet, and heard on television and radio. He is a frequent speaker to numerous organizations, heads a consultancy, and is the editor of the widely read blog, Virginia Tomorrow. Today, we talk about the current session of the General Assembly and touch on national politics. FamilyFoundationBlog.com: Dr. Holsworth, it's a great honor to have you answer some questions on our blog about the General Assembly and Virginia politics in general. So, thank you very much for participating in this interview. We greatly appreciate your valuable time and look forward to your insights and are big fans of your blog, Virginia Tomorrow. Are you ready for some questions?

Dr. Bob Holsworth: Thanks very much for the opportunity to be on your site.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Has anything surprised you about this session of the General Assembly? Has the Republican sweep and increased House of Delegates majority created a visible difference or is it too early to tell (i.e., waiting for the budget)?

Dr. Holsworth: Certainly, the Republican sweep in the House has made it even easier for the GOP to control the legislative outcomes in that chamber. But the Democratic control of the Senate can still pose substantial hurdles for the Governor and the House GOP. I was surprised that five Democrats in the Senate supported the Health Care Freedom legislation, symbolically repudiating former Governor Kaine and President Obama. All of these Democrats are in districts where the GOP could field competitive challengers and this tells you just how concerned Democrats have become about the impact of the national mood here in Virginia. At the same time, Senate Dems have summarily dismissed part of the McDonnell agenda such as dedicating royalties for off-shore drilling to transportation and changing the budget cycle. What will happen with the overall budget is still up in the air as Senate Dems actually disagree if they should present a budget that includes some of the tax increases in (former) Governor Kaine's recommended document or acknowledge the political reality that there will be no major tax increases and present a budget accordingly, even if it inconsistent with what they would really want to propose.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Governor Bob McDonnell ran on a jobs-creation platform and de-emphasized social issues. But social issues do play a role in the budget. Do you think he will go so far as to de-fund Planned Parenthood?

Dr. Holsworth: I think that you have phrased the question well. Some folks have said that McDonnell ran as a "moderate." My sense is that he ran as an economic conservative and gave less priority in the campaign to his social conservatism. I fully expect that McDonnell will sign almost all bills with a "social conservative" orientation that emerge from the legislative process. What's not entirely clear is how far his own proposals will move in this direction. He obviously made a symbolic change when he removed sexual orientation from the non-discrimination executive order with respect to state government workers. The question of whether he'll propose a budget amendment to de-fund panned parenthood will be seen by many of his supporters as a test of whether he will implement the values of social conservatism in the budget. If he does, there will be a substantial fight in the Senate and the media will surely portray it as a switch from the "moderation" of the campaign. If he doesn't, he'll disappoint a segment of his core supporters.

FamilyFoundationBlog: If Governor McDonnell proposes a host of "fees" instead of taxes to close the budget gap, how will that affect his support on the right? creation

Dr. Holsworth: If McDonnell is perceived as simply playing semantics with taxes, it will harm him not only with the right, but with many independents as well. He was very clear during the election about his belief that revenue increases should primarily come from economic growth and I would be very surprised if he has a post-election conversion to a different point of view, especially in this political environment.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Governor McDonnell is getting a lot of positive attention right now — giving the GOP response to the State of the Union, doing several national interviews, even one for Newt Gingrich's newsletter. Does he runs the risk of raising his own expectations?

Dr. Holsworth: I think of the smartest moves the new Governor made was to cancel his national interviews the day after his SOTU response. Virginians have made it clear that his first priority as Governor should be the Commonwealth and, in the long run, McDonnell's national stature will be most enhanced by having a strong approval rating in-state.

FamilyFoundationBlog: What chances do you give of real reforms this or next year in areas of budgeting and in recalculating SOQ spending?

Dr. Holsworth: The Senate has already rejected a key McDonnell proposal on changing the two year budget cycle. Recalculating SOQ spending has been an issue that many House Republicans have pointed to over the last few years as a reform necessary to rein in future budget increases. We've seen some willingness from both parties to look at items such as staffing ratios regarding non-instructional personnel. If there ever would be a time where the entire SOQ calculation would be readjusted, it would be in the kind of fiscal environment we have now. But polls show that schools remain extremely high on the public's priority list. In aggregate, school groups (teachers, superintendents, school boards, and principals) are extraordinarily well organized and very politically effective. Moreover, Virginia schools overall seem to perform extremely well — just this week, we ranked third in the nation in AP testing. I believe that the effort for major permanent structural changes in school funding will have substantial hurdles to overcome.

FamilyFoundationBlog: What are your thoughts on former Governor Doug Wilder calling for Tim Kaine's removal as Democrat National Committee chairman?

Dr. Holsworth: Former Governor Wilder noted that he had supported Tim Kaine for Vice-President, but did not feel that the DNC Chair was the best fit for his talents and skills. My guess is that there are a number of Democratic activists who are more comfortable with the sharp edges of a Howard Dean than the more cerebral approach to the position of Tim Kaine. The proof, of course, will be in the November pudding. Kaine will succeed if Democrats do far better than expected. But if November is a Democratic debacle, Kaine will be fingered for part of the blame.

Be sure to check back with us tomorrow afternoon for part two of our interview with Dr. Bob Holsworth as we look at next year's Congressional elections in Virginia, Senator Jim Webb's prospects in 2012, and the Tea Party movement.

Deja Vu All Over Again Twice In One Day

Four years ago, only a few weeks after taking office and proposing (against his campaign promise) the largest tax increase in Virginia history, Congressional Democrats chose then-Governor Tim Kaine to deliver their party's response to then-President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address. Yesterday, it was reported (see Washington Post), that Congressional Republicans have chosen newly sworn-in Governor Bob McDonnell to give the GOP response to President Barack Obama's January 27 State of the Union. How about that for asymmetrical karma? But there's more.

Yesterday, House Republicans brought to the floor Delegate Bob Brink's (D-48, Arlington) HB 1155, legislation that would enact former Governor Tim Kaine's proposed income tax increase (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). The bill was referred to the House Rules Committee, which alone has the authority to report bills to the floor without recommendation. Thus it did with HB 1155 in order to put Democrats on the spot — vote against their friend and national party chairman or be on record for higher taxes in a recession. Delegate Brink requested that the bill be pulled, normally a pro forma request that's granted at the will of the patron. Not yesterday!

Instead, it was put to a vote while Democrats vehemently protested. As if they couldn't have anticipated it. Remember, last year Republicans did the same thing on a bill that would have repealed Virginia's Right To Work Law (see post here and video here). They forced a vote by bringing that equally controversial bill through a no recommendation vote on the Rules Committee. The Democrats reacted by abstaining, but through a parliamentary procedure that says if a member is in his seat but not voting, and another member points that out, the vote must be recorded in the negative. Thus, Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem) forcibly recorded no votes against the bill which put Democrats at odds with their Big Labor allies.

With this as background, certainly they knew something was coming with a monstrous tax increase bill, and they knew they couldn't abstain. On the first day of session, when the rules package is adopted, Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) said as much when he objected to the Rules Committee exception. As it turned out, it was a unanimous blowout, with the House voting 97-0 (with Delegate Brink abstaining) to reject one last Tim Kaine tax increase, sending it down with all his others, this one posthumously, in the political sense.

So, the question is, why file the tax increase bill to begin with? Only Delegate Brink knows for sure, but we suspect some members of the General Assembly like to give a peek of their colors to satisfy certain constituencies, but seek to conceal them altogether from the greater electorate. Increasingly, however, these lawmakers get found out.

Virginia News Stand: December 21, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations Like Deeds, Like Marsden; Like Kaine, Like Marsden; Like Deeds, Like Kaine

We're keeping the news to a minimum today: the snow is melting and people are less captive and not as inclined to be in front of the computer as they get back to last minute shopping and other Christmas preparations. Most of the news around the state concerns Governor Tim Kaine's outlandish income tax increase proposal. Easy for him to do — he leaves office in three weeks. Governor-elect Bob McDonnell and the majority House Republicans already say it's a non-starter. So perhaps the big story, or at least the most intriguing, is the turn taken in the special election in the 37th Senate district (in Fairfax County) to replace Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli, between Republican Steve Hunt and Democrat Dave Marsden, currently a delegate. Democrats think, because of recent trends in Fairfax, they can win the seat; the GOP, with its reverberating rebound last month, sense the tide has turned back their way, even in Northern Virginia, where its candidates did exceedingly well in the recent election.

Delegate Marsden, who moved into a friend's house to establish residency in the district, now has pro-abortion allies railing against some old literature a crisis pregnancy center stopped distributing some time ago. Hunt used to serve on the center's board.

Two things are absolutely peculiar about this: First, Delegate Marsden, must not have paid much attention to the top of his own ticket last month as Democrat standard bearer Creigh Deeds (remember him?) clamored about abortion and social issues while the rest of Virginia concerned itself with jobs. Marsden, himself, considered to be in a safe House district, barely escaped to re-election. Now, Governor Kaine wants to repeal the car tax cut and raise the income tax, and Delegate Marsden, given his record, is most likely right there with him. Again, just like Senator Deeds, who recommended raising taxes during a recession (see Jeff Schaprio's analysis in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, below).

The second oddity is that while the pregnancy center has ceased distributing the information, those attacking it and Mr. Hunt are providing this type of sick information (see video of Planned Parenthood abortionist and counselor talking to prospective patient),where "patients" are advised that abortions are safer than giving birth. So, it's mini-campaign redux featuring residency, raising taxes in a recession and old flyers versus jobs and sticking up for the unborn.  

News:

Antiabortion pregnancy center figures in state Senate race (Washington Post)

McDonnell, GOP lawmakers assail Kaine’s budget plan (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Kaine proposes 1% rise in state income tax (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

From deep in the red, Gov. Kaine proposes a brutal state budget (The Daily Press)

'Painful cuts' part of Kaine's Virginia budget proposal (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Kaine proposes replacing car tax with income one (Washington Times)

Virginia governor proposes an income tax increase (Washington Post)

At least 7 GOP candidates eager to take on Perriello (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Analysis:

With budget, Kaine leaves tough task for both parties (Jeff Schapiro/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

The First Will Be Last

Raise your hand if you aren't the only one who thinks it's a bit ironic — perhaps hypocritical — of Governor Tim Kaine to slam House Republicans and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell for their opposition to "federal stimulus" money for increased unemployment insurance for laid off part-time workers, when the Kaine administration is the last — that's last — as in number 50 — state to apply for federal transportation funding (see Washington Post here). After all, here's the man who broke his campaign promise not to propose a tax increase and since has tried to jam two at us for the purported purpose of improving transportation. Even called a special session and had his PAC target certain House Republicans. But, here is the federal money his boss, President Obama, has made available, and he hasn't moved on it.

I suppose this makes Governor Kaine as much anti-transportation as he claims Republicans are anti-job creation. After all, he and his colleagues at the Democrat Governors Association poured millions of dollars into negative television ads against McDonnell under the premise that refusing additional (and budget costly) unemployment insurance is anti-jobs. Never mind that government deficits and higher taxes for this program are anti-jobs, perhaps the one thing in the "stimulus" bill that might create some is transportation construction.

And the first (to scream) will be last (in line). Maybe it is getting too difficult for the Mr. Kaine to serve both as governor and DNC chair.

News Conference Tomorrow On Poverty: Is It The Ecomomy Or The Family?

Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the House Briefing Room, a coalition of organizations and individuals, including lawmakers, economists, academics, ministers, First Things of Greater Richmond and The Family Foundation, will hold a news conference on a new initiative on poverty and families. Among the individuals participating are Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr. and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico). Last month, Governor Tim Kaine created the Poverty Reduction Task Force commission (see Richmond Times-Dispatch) to look into the causes of poverty in Virginia. Sounds altruistic except that he seemed to speak not as governor but as Democrat National Committee chairman, and immediately blamed House Republicans for every ill from The Great Plague on.

That might be expected no matter who is governor or no matter how many extra jobs he has. However, incredibly missing was an acknowledgment of how broken families, single-parent households and the lack of mothers and fathers play a disproportionate role in creating poverty and dead-end lives. Put aside any economic, budgetary, tax or regulatory argument, no amount of extra unemployment insurance to part-time workers (as the governor lambasted Republicans for refusing to grant) will do anything to remedy the broken family and illegitimacy. 

Yesterday, at the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition meeting, Delegate Janis laid out compelling statistics. For example, in 1970, there were 200 million people living in the United States and there were 25 million two-parent families. Now there are 300 million living here and still there are 25 million two-parent families. In 1970, there were 37 million houses with three bedrooms or more. Today, there are 77 million, even though the number of two-parent families remains the same as in 1970. No wonder there was a housing bubble — single parents have enough challenges without trying to pay for a house much too large on one income. Delegate Janis lays out his entire case in this June 7 Times-Dispatch  op-ed.

So, is poverty an economic problem or a family problem? As much as economists and sociologists disagree with themselves, much less each other, a wide assortment will be present tomorrow in person or in citation who agree that strengthening the family must be the basis for any poverty reduction program. As Delegate Janis said, it doesn't take a village, Hillary, it takes a dad.

This coalition hopes to have a sincere partnership with the governor in shaping meaningful, non-partisan solutions to the related increases of poverty and broken families. Whether he and his commission are up to it may indicate whether Governor Kaine is more interested in lasting solutions for this serious problem or in concocting political blame on his opponents over a difference in a single, fleeting policy issue.

Virginia News Stand: April 23, 2009

Sorry for the late arriving delivery of the News Stand. But there's lots to ponder today. The gubernatorial campaign is red hot now, make no mistake: Dems going after GOP nominee-to-be Bob McDonnell, House Republicans and each other; national figures weighing in; and, it wouldn't be a Terry McAuliffe moment if some financial investigation into an associate isn't involved — and it's not the Clintons, either, even though Bill announced he'd come campaign for him. That only prompted a reply from former Delegate Brian Moran. (He's had contributions questioned, as well, as many come from people with business in front of his brother, U.S. Representative Jim Moran). It's nothing but back and forth and side to side right now. Imagine what it will be like October. But, you know . . . hmmmmmm. Something . . . some one seems missing. Just can't think of who that might be.

In other campaign news, the House's longest serving member, and one of only two independents in the entire General Assembly, Lacey Putney of Bedford, says he wants another two years. Doubtless, he'll get them. 

Aside from all that, there's some serious news today. A federal court judge is imposing his will on the FDA and requiring the morning after pill to be made available to 17-year-olds. Amazing! So, we have another first (see Tuesday) at the News Stand: We're leading off with a video, because our very own Victoria Cobb is featured in it. She was interviewed by the Richmond CBS affiliate about the court decision. (See, hear and read all video and audio interviews, and blog references to us at our Online News Room.)

There's a lot of links below, but several are of the brief variety from the very informative Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog. We hope you enjoy it all.

Video:

*Morning After Pill Debate (WTVR-TV/CBS6, Richmond)

 

News:

In the Governor's Race, Chasing the Political Punching Bag (Washington Post)

Campaign Contributions: Virginia Democrats clash over cash (The Daily Press)

Fact Checker: Democrats at Candidates' Forum (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Moran releases his schools plan (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell Begins Online Ad Campaign (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

McAuliffe's Top Donor Touched by AIPAC Investigation (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Virginia Partisans Back Moran (Washington Post Virginia Politcs Blog)

Bill Clinton to campaign for McAuliffe (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Moran Responds to Clinton Visit (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

National GOP Getting Involved in AG's Race (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Republicans Fight Back on Unemployment Dollars (Washington Post Virginia Politcs Blog)

Va.'s longest-serving delegate to seek another term (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. Democratic party leads in cash (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Major Payday lender is leaving Virginia (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

National News:

17-Year-Olds to Gain Access to Plan B Pill (Washington Post)

Virginia News Stand: March 10, 2009

Topping the news today is Delegate Clark Hogan's (R-60, South Boston) decision not to seek re-election. He follows another young House Republican member, Delegate Bill Fralin (R-17, Roanoke), in surprising observers with the such an announcement. Not only that, but Senator Ken Stolle (R-8, Virginia Beach) may leave the Senate — if he runs for and gets elected Virginia Beach Sheriff. Interesting, as ever. Hogan not running for re-election, plans to focus on business (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Stolle considers run for Virginia Beach sheriff (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Va. Optimistic On Revenue (Harrisonburg Daily News-Record)

Area now a battleground for governor (The Daily Press)

Democrats Target McDonnell As Va. Smoking Ban Is Signed (Washington Post

Obama's Order on Stem Cells Leaves Key Questions to NIH (Washington Post)

Are The Tea Leaves Looking That Bad For The GOP?

Maybe not. If you haven't heard by now, the House didn't disappoint today with its traditional first day fireworks over matters that usually are nothing more than housekeeping. At issue was whether to seat a new delegate in what was an unusually close special election last night in the 46th district to replace Democrat Brian Moran, who resigned recently to run full time for governor. Unusually close because this district is all but two precincts in Alexandria and is one of the most reliably liberal districts in the commonwealth. This should have been a slam dunk for Democrat Charniele Herring over Republican Joe Murray, but she won by just 16 votes out of about 2,700. Until the automatic recount, House Republicans took the prudent measure, as we see in Congress every two years, of waiting until all is official and challenges exhausted.

(On a side note, what does this say about Moran's coattails, especially when Democrat gubernatorial rival Terry McAuliffe is promising to raise $75 million for the joint Dem statewide/House campaigns? Terry Mac's fundraising prowess combined with his lack of office to restrict what he raises during the G.A. is what spooked Moran to leave the House prematurely to begin with.)

This scarily narrow win in the People's Republic of Alexandria, combined with a special election in heavily African-American Richmond, where new mayor and former delegate Dwight Jones' handpicked successor Delores McQuinn won against a stealth write-in Republican candidate with only 63 percent of the vote, and a Republican blowout by Barry Knight (83 percent of the vote) in a Virginia Beach special to replace retired former delegate Terry Suit, where the Dems had hoped to at least run close, all point to a glimmer of hope that the House GOP has mobilized its grassroots.

We don't know that tea leaves can read deep into the soil, or if any of this pertains to anything come fall '09. But if ever a caucus needed a boost, even from a surprisingly close loss, this may have been it.

Mark Warner: Somewhere Between Old West Gunnies And Marc Rich

It's a well established fact of history that when Mark Warner ran for governor in 2001, he looked into the camera during his debate with Mark Early and disputed Early's claim that Warner was going to raise our taxes. Warner flatly denied it.  When he took office he cleverly tried to raise taxes through the back door via regional sales taxes referenda in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia which would have ostensibly funded transportation projects in those regions. Each lost decisively.

Emboldened by his loss, Mr. Warner a year later, blatantly decided on a full frontal attack. He and his Sundance Kid, RINO then-Senator John Chichester, rammed through a statewide tax increase, Virginia's largest ever, for everything but transportation. Their cry was that the Commonwealth was short on cash for core services, such as public safety and education. If nothing else, it proved another lie that the mainstream media nary expounds on: Warner was dead-set determined to raise taxes on someone, somehow, for any reason, campaign promise charade and all. Perhaps he needed to burnish his liberal credentials. Believe me, they already were firmly established. Just like Butch and Sundance: see a bank, gotta rob it. Money, especially when it's someone else's, is addictive, you know. The change in direction from transportation emergency to public safety and education crisis only deepened the plot: He was looking for anything he could sell that the public would buy. Transportation wouldn't get them to part with their hard-earned money, but the scare tactic of police lay-offs and kids getting no education might work. It did. By the way, we didn't hear much from Mr. Warner about a transportation crisis then, did we?

It truly is another matter if a politician says one thing while campaigning and the facts on the ground later make for a radically different situation. This wasn't the case at all. Hence more deception and fraud. Mr. Warner claimed he inherited a deficit. Not true. Virginia law prohibits it. His predecessor, former Governor Jim Gilmore, his opponent now in the U.S. Senate campaign, made — by law — the cuts necessary when Sundance Chichester couldn't come to an agreement on budget amendments with House Republicans.

Adding insult (to our intelligence) to injury (to our bank accounts) Mr. Warner misled Virginians again when he said he cut spending and there was nothing left to cut. Is that why spending increased dramatically during his term, from $23.48 billion to $32 billion? (That is about a 30 percent increase.) This truly is where white becomes black and black becomes white.

But his greatest whopper was that the tax increase — at $1.4 billion, Virginia's largest ever — was needed for a short fall for the next budget year. Time and time again he and his finance secretary presented figures to the General Assembly showing a slow down in tax receipts. Not only was there enough money coming in, but Warner's conception of a short fall wasn't a budget deficit, but a short fall in his own over-inflated revenue projections. As it was, a few weeks after he signed that largest-tax-increase-in-Virginia-history, he revealed we had a $1 billion surplus.

So, let's review: Lie about not seeking a tax increase by trying to get the state's two most populous regions to approve a sales tax hike; lie that it is needed for transportation; prove that lie by lying the next year by telling us we needed an even larger tax increase for public safety and education. (Did transportation cure itself?) Lie about inheriting a budget deficit when Virginia law proves you're wrong. Then lie about cutting spending when, in fact, the figures show you increased spending. Lie that the next budget is in deficit when it is only your own inflated revenue projections that are the problem even though they came in $1 billion above what was needed to cover the budget. Now say you "straightened out the mess in Richmond." More than a con artist but without the lethal force used for a bank robbery. Somewhere between Old West gunnies and Marc Rich. There it is. Mark Warner, in his own unique class.

With Warner's concerted effort of deception (and the re-writing of history) it is no wonder Governor Tim Kaine thinks he also can get away with it raising taxes despite his 2005 campaign no tax pledge:

"We just had a tax increase. I'm not going to be in for another one." 

Which reminds me of a question raised here before, but has gone unanswered: Does Mark Warner support Tim Kaine's billion dollar tax-increase plan?