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Democrat Timothy M. Kaine launched his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign on April 5 by touting his record as Virginia’s governor.
Kaine said Virginia was named the "best-managed state, best state for business and best state in which to raise a child" during his term from 2006 to 2010. (Virginia law bars governors from serving consecutive terms).
We wondered if Kaine had his facts right.
We turned to Governing magazine. Since 1999, it has been publishing a report by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States that grades each state on the strength of its management.
Under Kaine in 2008, Virginia was one of three states to earn an "A-" grade, topping the rankings alongside Utah and Washington.
The Pew report does not assign one-to-50 rankings to the states, meaning Utah and Washington can also claim to be "best managed."
Virginia’s reputation for well-managed government hardly begins with Kaine, however. Each of the four governors who preceded Kaine also claim credit for having run the best-managed state. That includes Republican George Allen, who is also running for Senate in 2012.
The state earned the best grades in Governing in 2005 when Democrat Mark Warner was governor and in 1999 under Republican Jim Gilmore.
Financial World magazine researched and published similar ratings -- independent of Pew -- in the 1990s. Virginia received the top management grade in 1995 and 1996 under Allen, and in 1992 and 1993 under the governorship of Democrat Doug Wilder.
The Pew report looks at a state’s performance and resources in four major categories: money, infrastructure, people and information. The diverse topics means a state’s record is dependant on many people, including elected officials and state employees. The state’s 2008 mark under Kaine was unchanged from the "A-" grade received in 2005 under Warner.
Virginia’s ranking as the top state for doing business comes from Forbes, the financial magazine. The state took first place each year from 2006 to 2009. In 2009 the publication said Virginia earned the top spot thanks to a highly-trained workforce, a favorable regulatory environment and high quality of life.
As governor, Kaine had only indirect control over most of these factors. Although he certainly had a say in tax rates and regulations, he had little sway over how many Virginians earned college degrees during his term and many quality-of-life issues.
But the facts match Kaine’s claim about the state being rated best for business during his tenure.
Last year the state surrendered the top spot to Utah and placed second in the Forbes survey. Despite the drop, the magazine still had high praise for Virginia’s business climate. Utah had narrowly trailed Virginia in 2009.
The claim about Virginia being the best state to raise a child comes from a 2007 report by Education Weekand the Pew Center on the States. The survey examined education test scores, high school graduation rates, family income and even the education level of Virginia parents. Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Maryland rounded out the top five.
Like the other categories, Kaine can’t claim credit for all of these successes. He certainly didn’t play a role in how many Virginians went to college during the years or decades before he became governor.
Let’s review our findings.
Virginia has long-earned top marks for state management, finishing at or near the top of virtually every survey in that category for 20 years. Kaine built upon a strong legacy of management established by his predecessors from both parties. He deserves credit, however, for keeping the state near the top. He was handed a Cadillac and drove it well.
We rate his statements True.
Kaine for Virginia, Best decision I ever made, April 5, 2011.
Forbes, The best states for business and careers, October 13, 2010.
Forbes, The best states for business, Sept. 23, 2009.
Pew Center on the States, Overall performance grades, March 2008.
Pew Center on the States, Grading the states, March 2008.
Pew Center on the States, Grading the states, Virginia, February 2005.
Deseret News, Utah No. 1 for governing, March 4, 2008.
Education Week, From cradle to career, Jan. 4 2007.
Interview with Brandi Hoffine, press secretary, Kaine for Virginia, April 6, 2011.
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