Cuccinelli says price tag for McAuliffe’s campaign promises totals $14 billion


Virginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe (D), left, and Ken Cuccinelli II (R), in McLean on Sept. 25, 2013. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has tallied up the cost of his Democratic opponent’s wish list and found that Terry McAuliffe would need nearly $14 billion in new tax revenue to fulfill his campaign promises in the next four years, according to a draft of the Republican’s analysis.

Cuccinelli’s campaign said McAuliffe’s expansive vision of Virginia government means that taxes would have to increase by more than $1,700 on a typical family of four to pay for everything.

“McAuliffe wants to spend 60 times more money than is available to him,” according to a draft of the Republican’s analysis.

McAuliffe and his Democratic allies have likewise challenged the centerpiece of Cuccinelli’s economic policy, saying the Republican has promised to cut $1.4 billion in taxes without offering specifics about the tax expenditures and loopholes he would eliminate to make up for lost revenue. McAuliffe’s campaign said Wednesday that Cuccinelli’s numbers had no basis in fact.

“It’s a shame that Ken Cuccinelli has spent more time making up numbers about Terry’s plan than he has explaining how he would pay for his own,” McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an e-mail. He also said that Cuccinelli’s calculations, by leaving out any money from the landmark transportation-funding plan passed with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's backing this year, suggest that Cuccinelli is backing away from his pledge to implement the act if he is elected.

“For Cuccinelli to once again radically reverse his position on the most significant legislative accomplishment in recent memory would be a stunning and desperate move, even as he moves back to the Tea Party,” Schwerin wrote.

Polls show McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli, who is the state’s attorney general, in a competitive race with about a month to go before the Nov. 5 election.

The analysis by Cuccinelli’s campaign gathered much of its material from McAuliffe’s platform, statements by McAuliffe or his campaign, news articles and white papers from Chmura Economics and Analytics and the Commonwealth Institute. Cuccinelli is expected to discuss the campaign’s tally of McAuliffe’s promises Wednesday at an event in Hampton Roads.

McAuliffe has said that his proposals for boosting teacher salaries, expanding preschool, making college more affordable, improving transportation and other plans depend on Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Expanding the state- and federally subsidized health-care program for 400,000 low-income people using mostly federal dollars would save Virginia about $500 million a year, McAuliffe said.

But after reviewing the Democrat’s platform and public statements, Cuccinelli’s campaign says McAuliffe’s spending would far outpace the amount of available new revenue, even if Virginia does realize savings by expanding Medicaid.

On education, for example, Cuccinelli’s analysis of McAuliffe’s promise to restore Standard of Quality and $1,000-per-pupil expenditures that have been cut since fiscal 2007 shows that McAuliffe would need to spend about $5 billion over the next four years. To ensure that college students do not go into debt, as McAuliffe promised, would mean spending at least $3.8 billion between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 school years, according to Cuccinelli.

The Cuccinelli campaign, citing a conservative PAC’s estimate, says McAuliffe’s pledge to bring average teacher pay up to the national average would cost $700 million a year.

On energy, the Cuccinelli campaign-- citing the Institute for Energy Research, which is an industry-funded nonprofit -- says McAuliffe’s plan to have a mandatory renewable energy requirement would boost electricity and energy rates by 40 percent, based on the experience of states that have such standards. That would increase the state’s electric utility bill alone by more than $84 million a year, Cuccinelli says.

The campaign’s analysis also covers McAuliffe’s promise to widen Route 58 (at least $325 million); light-rail expansion in Norfolk ($250 million); and increased spending on tourism, rural health care and inter-city passenger rail, whose specifics were not clear enough to calculate.

Cuccinelli’s campaign, citing independent estimates by Chmura and the nonprofit Commonwealth Institute, also suggests that McAuliffe has overestimated the savings that will be freed up in Virginia from expanding Medicaid. Cuccinelli said the amount of new tax revenue that would be available would be closer to $50 million or $60 million a year, partly because the Virginia General Assembly has indicated that some of the state’s projected savings would likely be put aside to offset costs of the expansion.

The Republican’s campaign also argues that going forward with the Medicaid proposal is unlikely to happen soon. For now, the decision rests in the hands of a General Assembly panel that is examining whether the program has been reformed sufficiently to warrant expansion. The Republican vice chairman of the panel said it could take months or years to expand Medicaid under the new health law, though a Democratic senator on the panel asserted that it could go forward as early as next year.

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