Bob McDonnell Magic: Spend Money But Don't Pay For It [UPDATED w/video]

Monday, January 18, 2010

The full text of Bob McDonnell's speech earlier this evening to the Joint Houses of the General Assembly is here. Overall, the speech avoids "social issues" - abortion, gay rights, etc. - and focuses instead on jobs and the economy. That's smart and appropriate. Unfortunately, McDonnell doesn't really offer anything more here than what he offered during the campaign, which was essentially well-presented smoke and mirrors. Here's the McDonnell formula:

1. Read his lips, no new taxes! Actually, McDonnell says, "if you pass a bill in this recession that raises taxes on the hardworking families of Virginia – I WILL VETO IT" and "if you pass a budget embedded with those same tax increases – I WILL NOT APPROVE IT." Got that?

2. Despite #1, promise to invest in education, rural economic development, the Governor's Opportunity Fund, film production, biotech, workforce development, job creation, a Spaceport, the Wine Promotion Fund, renewable energy, nuclear power, pretty much "you name it." Also, declare that "you have to spend money to make money," but again don't say where you're going to get the money. Ponies for everybody!

3. Offer all kinds of gimmicks, from the traditional Republican call for government "efficiency" measures - perfectly fine in theory but ridiculous when we've already cut Virginia's government to the bare bones - to selling off ABC stores to mythical revenues from drilling for oil offshore (many years away even if there's any economically recoverable oil there in the first place) in order to (not) pay for the stuff mentioned in #2.

4. Somehow do #1-#3 without throwing the budget completely out of whack and/or cranking up debt. Magic!

Unfortunately for all of us, this is not "magic" at all. To the contrary, Bob McDonnell has not repealed the laws of economics, let alone mathematics. Unfortunately for Bob McDonnell, 1 plus 1 still equals 2, no matter how much he may not want that to be the case. Which means, of course, that this budget is just another, warmed-over version of supply side, trickle down, ReaganBushonomics. If you think that worked out well for the country as a whole, I guess you're going to love what it does for Virginia. If not, you're probably going to be in for a looooooong four years.

P.S. Message to Virginia Democrats, your job is clear: stop McDonnell before he decimates education and harms the most vulnerable Virginians. Your job is also to stop him before he trashes our environment. Oh, and STOP HIM before he pushes through his stealth, far-right-wing social agenda that he's not talking about publicly right now. Other than that, be all bipartisan and have a great time working with Bob McDonnell! :)

UPDATE: Key parts of the Democratic response.
One month ago, Governor Kaine proposed a balanced budget that includes significant budget cuts. Governor McDonnell has declared the entire plan dead on arrival. Please understand what that declaration means. By rejecting Kaine’s plan, Governor McDonnell is forcing an additional $2 billion in cuts. Cuts will now total $4.3 billion instead of $2.3 billion. McDonnell’s cuts will mean the elimination of more critical services and thousands of layoffs to public employees, including our teachers and public safety professionals. We await Governor McDonnell’s detailed plan on how he would make his additional $2 billion in cuts."
“We have done all we can to protect funding for K-12 education, but it is no longer possible to place any portion of the budget off limits. Public education remains a top priority for Democrats. We also know that education means jobs. The previously proposed cuts to education will have a significant impact, but Governor McDonnell’s course of action will double the pain. Estimates indicate the level of cuts chosen by the Governor could result in 23,000 layoffs in public education across the state. We intend to maintain Virginia’s leadership status in public education. We ask Governor McDonnell to join us in opposing permanent cuts to our public schools and far reaching job losses that will follow.
“The Senate has shown that we are serious about fixing our transportation problems. One thing we will not do is build roads on the backs of school children. We look forward to working with Governor McDonnell as he leads his fellow Republicans to address this problem that should have been fixed long ago.

UPDATE 1/19/10: Video of the speech is now available.

UPDATE #2: The Democratic response is now available.