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Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli says Terry McAuliffe, his Democratic opponent, has introduced zero policies.
"I’m the only candidate for governor who’s rolled out any policies so far," Cuccinelli said on June 11 as he announced his workforce development plan.
Cuccinelli made a similar claim during a June 7 radio interview on WMAL in Washington. McAuliffe’s campaign is "being very negative and they haven’t rolled out any policies," he said.
No policies? Nada? Nary a one?
To check Cuccinelli’s claim, we turned to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, which defines policy as "a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body."
So there are two components to policy: a goal and a process to get there. And we’ll add one more ground rule: the proposals should be in writing.
Scouring McAuliffe’s website, we came across several proposals that clearly met all of these tests and were released prior to Cucinelli’s June attacks. They are:
*An executive order banning gifts over $100 to the governor’s family and barring all gifts to the governor’s household from lobbyists and others who do business with the state. McAuliffe said he would also ask the General Assembly pass the same rules for itself, the lieutenant governor and attorney general, in addition to requiring that gifts of more than $500 to dependent family members be publicly reported.
*Creating a bipartisan commission to investigate ethics complaints against state politicians or discrepancies in their disclosure reports and refer violations to the proper disciplinary body. McAuliffe says the panel would have a "small professional staff" and would be funded through lobbyist registration fees.
*Giving localities the option of reducing or eliminating the business and professional licensing tax, the machinery and tool tax and the merchants capital tax. McAuliffe would appoint a commission to help localities come up with revenue-neutral ways to end or cut the levies. Cuccinelli, we should note, also has proposed abolishing each of the three taxes.
*Appointing a commission to recommend reforms to Standards of Learning tests given to public school students. McAuliffe says the multiple-choice tests are a flawed measure of teaching and learning and the state should also use essay and short-answer questions.
So how does Cuccinelli come up with zero?
Richard Cullen, communications director for the campaign, sent us an email saying Cuccinelli’s comments do not suggest that McAuliffe has put no proposals on the table.
"Ken uses qualifiers that I think are important: ‘substantive,’ ‘nothing in detail,’ zero policy rollouts,’" he wrote.
It’s true that when Cuccinelli criticized McAuliffe in late May, he did use the words "zero policy rollouts," and added the caveat that his opponent had offered "nothing in detail" or "substantive."
But those last two qualifiers disappeared as Cuccinelli amped up his attack in June, so they are not a factor in this Truth-O-Meter.
The term "rollout" remained in Cuccinelli’s comments and deserves consideration. "Ken has outlined comprehensive policy proposals in front of reporters across the Commonwealth and allowed the public to digest and scrutinize his ideas," Cullen said. "At no point has Terry McAuliffe done that."
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines rollout as "the widespread public introduction of a new product."
McAuliffe has not introduced policy with the verve of Cuccinelli, who called a news conference with the capitol press corps in May to announce his tax cutting plan and answer questions about it. But McAuliffe has publicized his major initiatives in press releases, interviews and speeches around the state.
Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for McAuliffe, said the Democrat has put out "lots of policies" and referred us to a 13-page document on the campaign’s website entitled "Putting Jobs First." In general, we found the document to be more of a platform laying out McAuliffe’s broad goals than a policy paper detailing how he would accomplish them. For example, McAuliffe repeatedly calls for greater investment in mass transit and public and higher education, but does not put price tags on his proposals or say how the state would pay for them.
Cuccinelli, in contrast, has not issued a platform as broad as McAuliffe’s, but has unveiled some of his policies in greater depth that his opponent. Even so, Cuccinelli has left many major questions unanswered.
For example, Cuccinelli has called for cutting the 6 percent corporate income tax rate to 4 percent over four years and reducing the 5.75 individual income tax rate to 5 percent over the same span. The cost of the cuts would be $1.4 billion a year, which Cuccinelli says he would pay for by eliminating tax exemptions and loopholes -- but he won’t say which ones. That work would be assigned to a commission after he was elected.
At least twice, Cuccinelli has said McAuliffe hasn’t "rolled out any policies."
McAuliffe has rolled out a number of detailed steps for ethics reforms in state government. His proposals to improve standardized testing in public schools and give localities options to end some taxes, while relying on commissions to make the hard decisions, both set goals and a route for achieving them.
We’re not conferring wonk status on McAuliffe or anything close to it. But Cuccinelli’s statement is an obvious stretch and we rate it False.
Cuccinelli, recorded press conference in Bristol, June 11.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, "Policy," accessed July 1, 2013.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, "Rollout," accessed June 8, 2013.
Email from Richard Cullen, communications director for Cuccinelli, June 18, 2013.
Emails from Josh Schwerin, spokesman for McAuliffe, June 27, 2013.
McAuliffe, "McAuliffe Urges House of Delegates to Pass School Resource Officer Proposal," Jan. 19, 2013.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Grant funds hiring of more school resource officers in Va.," June 17, 2013.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Budget includes extra raise for veteran state workers," Feb. 24, 2013.
Daily Press, "Vision for better care outlined," April 16, 2013.
McAuliffe, "McAuliffe Proposes Gift Ban for Virginia Elected Officials; Will Enforce It For Himself Even If Legislature Does Not Act," April 25, 2013.
McAuliffe, "McAuliffe Proposes Formation of Independent Ethics Commission to Hold Elected Officials Accountable," April 30, 2013.
McAuliffe, "McAuliffe Proposes Local Tax Reform Plan: Reduce Burdensome Taxes for Virginia’s Businesses," May 3, 2013.
McAuliffe, "McAuliffe Proposes Stronger Penalties for Workforce Discrimination," June 6, 2013.
McAuliffe, "Terry’s Platform: Putting Jobs First," May 5, 2013.
The Associated Press, "Terry McAuliffe kicking off campaign for governor in Virginia," May 5, 2013.
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