WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate for governor. Terry McAuliffe is the Democratic nominee for governor, facing off against Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Libertarian Robert Sarvis. McAuliffe’s answers are presented here. The election takes place Nov. 5.
1. How does the Historic Triangle fit into your vision of a prosperous and fiscally healthy commonwealth?
Virginia’s Historic Triangle is a tremendous asset that every Virginian should visit and appreciate. I have enjoyed all of my visits to the area, whether I was walking the waterfront in Yorktown, learning about our history in Jamestown, or taking in the sights and sounds of Colonial Williamsburg. Tourism is a critical part of Virginia’s economy and, as governor, I will do everything I can to ensure that the Historic Triangle is supported and promoted as a major Virginia attraction.
2. Tourism is an increasingly important industry in the Historic Triangle: How do you plan on encouraging the continued development of an industry that’s a vital lifeline to this area? Please be specific.
There are a few key things we can do to support the region. First and foremost, we need to ensure that Virginia’s state funding for our tourism efforts is stable and consistent. It makes it unnecessarily difficult for our promotion efforts to have wildly differing funding levels from budget to budget.
Second, we need to ensure that our transportation system is up to the task of getting tourists to and from our many attractions with a minimum of congestion. I was a strong proponent of the recent transportation compromise and I look forward to overseeing renewed investment in our transportation infrastructure as governor. We want tourists remembering our wonderful accommodations, not a traffic jam.
Finally, we need to present a public image that is welcoming to all potential visitors. It hurts our Commonwealth when we appear to be intolerant or discriminatory, and it is never helpful to be the subject of late night comedy shows. As governor I look forward to showing the world the wonderful, welcoming Virginia that I see when I travel the Commonwealth.
I believe Virginia is facing some challenges but that we also have tremendous resources and opportunities. I have laid out an agenda to maintain Virginia as a business friendly state and that agenda will benefit all areas of the Commonwealth, including Hampton Roads.
Infrastructure – particularly transportation infrastructure – is a critically important business and quality of life issue. I was a strong supporter of the bipartisan transportation compromise passed during the last legislative session, and I encouraged members of my party to support the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker. The next governor will have adequate transportation resources, and addressing congestion and mobility in Hampton Roads will be a top transportation priority for me as governor.
Tourism is critical to Virginia’s economy and that of Hampton Roads, and I will continue to expand our promotion efforts, but without the ability to get our visitors in and out effectively our economy will suffer. I look forward to working with the business community to determine what projects might best serve that end.
Additionally, I am a firm believer that the Port of Virginia is one of our most valuable assets. I did not support the proposal to privatize the port and I will work to ensure that the port is seen for the driver of economic development that it is. That means ensuring stable governance, strong executive support, and working to alleviate the gridlock that slows down commerce to and from the port.
Without qualified and ready workers, Virginia businesses will struggle to be successful. Virginia has a strong tradition of supporting world-class educational institutions, and I share the traditional Virginia view that education is an investment, not an expense. That’s why I want to focus resources on our community colleges, invest a greater percentage of our overall higher education spending toward financial aid, and ensure that our Pre-K through 12 system has adequate state support. Further, I plan to reform the SOLs, so that the timing and format of the tests better measures progress. This will allow Virginia to increase effective accountability for our schools and improve educational outcomes.
Finally, as a businessman, I know that regulations and a state’s regulatory environment can have a significant impact on your success. I believe that we need clear rules of the road, but that regulations should be enacted with an eye toward accomplishing their goal with the greatest ease of compliance and least burden on our citizens. In general, I think the state’s regulatory framework has been good. Where there are problems, I plan on empowering the Chief Jobs Creation Officer to solve them for current and incoming Virginia businesses.
4. Do you support an expansion of Medicaid in Virginia? Why or why not?
I am a strong supporter of expanding Medicaid in Virginia. Both morally and economically, expanding Medicaid is right for Virginia. Implemented properly, the Medicaid expansion can create 33,000 jobs, reduce costs, bring over $21 billion of our federal tax dollars back from Washington, and provide lifesaving coverage to 400,000 currently uninsured Virginians. Additionally, Virginia can expect over $500 million in new net General Fund revenues by reducing indigent care costs and job creation under an expanded Medicaid. There is important work being done right now to reform Medicaid and bring market-based improvements to our delivery systems. That work should absolutely continue.
5. Do you think the Virginia Retirement System is effective as it is currently set up? What, if anything, would you change? Do you believe Gov. McDonnell’s changes to the system have been a net positive or negative?
I was not supportive of efforts to do away with defined benefit pensions in VRS, nor of “hybrid” plans. It is unfortunate that the current administration pushed through such sweeping changes to the retirement system of Virginia’s public servants. I believe we need to move forward with two goals in mind: 1) making sure that our public servants can count on getting the retirement benefits they deserve by making sure the state holds up its end of the bargain without any future changes that would further reduce benefits, and 2) working to make sure that Virginia’s benefits are competitive so we can have the best teachers for our kids, the best cops and firefighters protecting our communities, and the best state workforce serving our great Commonwealth.
6. It appears funding may soon be on the table to widen Interstate 64 from Jefferson Avenue in Newport News to Upper York County, near Water Country USA. Does your vision for transportation in Virginia include this project?
Absolutely, I am a strong supporter of the project. I believe adding lanes to I-64 will improve access to Hampton Roads generally and add value to our tourism industry, all while making our Port more competitive and improving safety in the entire region. More generally I believe that the Hampton Roads region – an economic engine for the entire Commonwealth – will need significant increases in transportation funding to help address the geographic and transportation challenges it faces.