Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Cuccinelli and McAuliffe ask each other, "Where's the beef?"

Gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli, left, and Terry McAuliffe shared a relaxed moment at a recent luncheon.
Gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli, left, and Terry McAuliffe shared a relaxed moment at a recent luncheon.

Both of Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, have accused the other of having thin or non-existent policy proposals.

McAuliffe’s campaign early last month dismissed Cuccinelli’s tax proposals as "light on specifics" and his energy plans as an "economic press release."

Cuccinelli returned the fire during a May 28 appearance in Lynchburg. "My opponent hasn’t rolled out anything, nothing in detail," he said. "He’s had zero policy rollouts."

Both candidates have put forth a number of proposals and ideas. We’ve listed the major ones below. We’ll let you decide whether they have enough meat to be considered policy rollouts.

Taxes

Cuccinelli is calling for $1.4 billion in tax cuts. His plan calls for lowering the state’s income tax -- from 6 percent to 4 percent for businesses and from 5.75 percent to 5 percent for individuals. The Republican says the state can largely pay for the reductions through economic growth and by eliminating tax loopholes. Cuccinelli has not identified any tax breaks he would end, saying he would work with the General Assembly to find them after he took office.

Cuccinelli and McAuliffe have nearly identical plans for reducing or eliminating several local levies that they say hurt small businesses: the business, professional and occupational licensing tax, the machinery and tool tax and the merchants’ capital tax. If elected, both say they would appoint a commission to recommend revenue-neutral ways of reining in the local levies.

Cuccinelli wants to cap state spending increases to a rate equaling the combined percentages of inflation and population growth in Virginia.

Energy

McAuliffe, in a 13-page platform released on May 5, touted clean energy jobs. The document makes no other mention of energy. A McAuliffe spokesman has said the candidate favors oil drilling off Virginia’s coast. As we recently noted, that’s a reversal of McAuliffe’s position in 2009. He continues to support offshore drilling for natural gas.

Cuccinelli released a May 16 statement endorsing an "all of the above" strategy for Virginia energy development, including offshore drilling for oil and renewables, but without government subsidies. He said he would support research into clean coal technology, request waivers to get out of ethanol fuel requirements and get rid Virginia of standards that require increased energy production from renewable sources such as wind or solar power.

Education

The bulk of McAuliffe’s platform focuses on education -- from pre-K through college.

He calls for reform in Standards of Learning tests used to measure academic accomplishment for Virginia public school students. The SOLs "have created an environment with an over-emphasis on drilling students to take one-time, multiple-choice tests," he says.

In speeches or in his platform, McAuliffe has broadly called for more money to public schools and pre-K programs as well as raising Virginia teacher salaries to the national average and reducing their non-instructional workload. He has not said how he would pay for these proposals, other than seeking efficiencies in local and state education efforts.

McAuliffe wants to increase funding for community colleges and give them more flexibility in purchasing, hiring and running workforce development programs. For four-year colleges, he wants to give parents and students information on job opportunities in different fields, expand online education and increase money to research and development programs.

Cuccinelli has not yet laid out his education plan.

Transportation

McAuliffe supports creating a lockbox to prevent the General Assembly from diverting transportation revenues to other programs. He also calls for a halt to rising highways tolls and backs an unspecified increase in state support for transit and passenger rail

McAuliffe supported tax increases this year that will raise $6 billion for transportation projects. Cuccinelli did not back the legislation, but has said he won’t try to overturn it. He has not released a transportation plan.

Miscellaneous

McAuliffe promises to appoint a staff member to connect military veterans to job openings for which they have certified skills. He has proposed a ban of gifts worth $100 or more to governors of their families from registered lobbyists and company executives doing business with the state.

McAuliffe also supports expanding Medicaid coverage in Virginia as allowed by Obamacare. Cuccinelli has opposed the expansion.