Where Cuccinelli, McAuliffe stand on issues in the race for Virginia governor


Virginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe, former DNC Chair, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli participate in a debate moderated by NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sept. 25, 2013. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
October 20, 2013
ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Cuccinelli has been a sharp critic of Environmental Protection Agency proposals to make new coal-fired power plants meet stricter pollution standards. He supports a bill that would permit offshore drilling and give Virginia a cut of the revenue. He supports a portfolio of all forms of energy, including wind, solar, offshore drilling and coal. He opposes a mandatory renewable energy standard, saying it would harm job creation. He opposes risking taxpayer money in the emerging field of green energy, as with Solyndra, which went bankrupt after receiving more than $535 million in government-backed loan guarantees. As attorney general, he demanded documents from former University of Virginia climate researcher Michael Mann to determine whether the professor skewed data and defrauded taxpayers to obtain grants. He mounted a legal challenge to the EPA’s decision to impose limits on carbon emissions, saying the agency’s findings were based on “junk science” borrowed from a United Nations panel instead of its own research.

In 2009, McAuliffe said, “I never want another coal plant built.” In May, he said he wants “a healthy workforce of coal.” After initially declining to take a position, McAuliffe supported an EPA proposal limiting emissions from new coal-fired plants. In 2009, he said he opposed offshore drilling, but in May his campaign said he supported it. He supports offshore wind turbines and said the equipment should be built in Virginia. He has complained that Virginia is the only Mid-Atlantic state without a mandatory renewable energy standard, which he said would boost clean-energy jobs. He has called for more research in green technology, such as carbon capture and storage, and more investment in renewable energy. He has invested in two firms billed as environmentally friendly — GreenTech Automotive, which makes electric cars, and Franklin Pellets, intended to produce fuel from timber waste. Neither has met McAuliffe’s promises of creating jobs. He believes that human activity has contributed to climate change.

HEALTH

Cuccinelli is a longtime opponent of the new health-care law, and he filed an unsuccessful lawsuit — separate from the one that reached the U.S. Supreme Court — arguing the measure was unconstitutional. He supports a full repeal of the bill. He is steadfastly antiabortion, opposing it in all cases — including rape and incest — other than to save the mother’s life. He supports new restrictions on abortion clinics imposing hospital-style building codes. When the State Board of Health initially decided to exempt existing clinics from the new rules, Cuccinelli informed board members that his office would not defend them in litigation. He opposes the Medicaid expansion called for by the new health-care law. The law encourages states to expand eligibility for the program, in exchange offering federal funds to cover 100 percent of costs for the first three years and 90 percent eventually. Cuccinelli has said he doubts the federal government will keep that promise.

McAuliffe backs the new health-care law overall but praised President Obama for delaying the employer mandate, in part because of its effect on community colleges, where many adjunct instructors’ weekly hours were cut below 30 to avoid the requirement. Regarding a repeal, McAuliffe says, “that debate is over and it’s time to implement the law in the way that creates jobs and brings about savings and better outcomes for Virginia.” McAuliffe opposes the abortion-clinic rules backed by Cuccinelli, joining foes who think the new guidelines are too strict. His campaign says he “supports keeping existing Virginia laws on when abortions are legal.” The state prohibits third-trimester abortions except to protect the life or health of the mother. McAuliffe supports Medicaid expansion, arguing that Virginia should get back the money it pays to Washington in taxes. He says expansion will inject billions into the state economy, create thousands of jobs and free up money that could pay for other priorities, particularly education.

EDUCATION

Cuccinelli would expand preschool tax credits to low-income families. He would push for charter schools and empower parents to take over failing schools. He wants to double the number of female students focused on science and technology, expand virtual schooling and build on the commonwealth’s nearly-two-year-old law that gives tax credits to donors who provide voucher-like scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools. He would seek an amendment to Virginia’s constitution to allow government funds to flow to religious schools. He has proposed an overhaul of the state’s 20-year-old Standards of Learning tests to be geared more toward problem-solving than memorization. He would encourage businesses to help shape college curricula and get first crack at hiring students in programs supported by their private-sector contributions. He would push colleges and universities to offer at least one bachelor’s program in the sciences for less than $10,000. He supports increasing tuition assistance to $3,500 for undergraduates and limit them to four years to encourage on-time graduation.

McAuliffe wants to expand Virginia’s preschool program for low-income children by changing distribution requirements so more communities can participate. He also wants to improve skills of preschool educators by providing “targeted, affordable” training in partnership with the state’s network of community colleges. He has called for boosting K-12 salaries through “efficiency” and from money saved if the state takes federal funds to expand Medicaid. He would readjust teacher evaluations to reflect student progress. He doesn’t mention charter schools or letting parents take over failing institutions. He has said he would overhaul the Standards of Learning to focus on essays and problem-solving and less on memorization. He would give districts more flexibility to use the tests as diagnostic tools instead of administering them at the end of the school year. He said he wants to help community colleges create jobs through closer collaboration with high schools. He would also search for ways to address rising tuition. His campaign talks about protecting tuition grants without offering details.

ECONOMY

Tax relief is the centerpiece of Cuccinelli’s plan to create jobs and accelerate Virginia’s economy. He wants to lower the individual income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent over four years, and the business income tax from 6 percent to 4 percent. He says the $1.4 billion reduction can be paid for by closing unspecified loopholes. His campaign said he would also establish a small-business tax commission to seek ways to eliminate or cut the Business Professional Occupational License (BPOL) tax and the Merchants Capital (MC) tax while maintaining local government revenue. The commission would also identify and eliminate “outdated” exemptions and loopholes that “promote crony capitalism.” He has promised not to let state government spending grow faster than the rates of population and inflation. On job creation, Cuccinelli would try to reduce red tape for small businesses and create the Office of the Small Business Advocate as a one-stop-shopping agency to help small firms create and expand jobs.

McAuliffe’s jobs plan calls for a continued emphasis on Virginia’s tradition of low taxes and “fewer, smarter” regulations. He has said would help put returning veterans to work and would develop new job-training programs at community colleges. He has called for greater attention to increasing jobs in the fields of cybersecurity, clean energy, tourism, advanced manufacturing and defense. He has also said he plans to improve operations at the Port of Virginia. On taxes, he said he would convene a task force to find revenue-neutral ways of reducing or eliminating the BPOL tax, the MC tax and the Machinery and Tool tax. Asked in September whether tax increases would be “on the table” to pay for his policy proposals, McAuliffe said, “No.” McAuliffe has said the key to creating jobs is improving the transportation network. He would try to reduce red tape for businesses and empower “the chief jobs creation officer” to handle business incentives and attraction.

TRANSPORTATION

Cuccinelli opposed a landmark transportation-funding measure signed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) this year as a “massive tax increase” and raised legal objections about the legislation as attorney general. He also declared unconstitutional the imposition of taxes only on Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. The taxes would raise a total of about $500 million a year, to be used regionally. But he also offered guidance on making the bill constitutionally sound and said he would not try to change it as governor. Cuccinelli wants to remove politicking from the process of choosing how to spend state dollars on transportation improvements by using a statewide index that would identify where traffic is heaviest. He has spoken out against the Metro system’s second phase of expanding the Silver Line into Loudoun County, saying the costs outweigh the benefits except for landowners in its path. He has also expressed concerns about the impact of the project on Northern Virginia motorists whose tolls are helping to pay for the rail line’s construction.

McAuliffe supported the transportation bill and said he would pursue similar bipartisan approaches to solving the state’s transportation challenges. Earlier this year, he ran a TV ad suggesting that he made phone calls in support of the landmark measure that helped it pass in the Virginia General Assembly, a claim that met with objections from Republicans who supported the bill. He has said he will emphasize infrastructure to roads, rail lines and bridges focused on safety and economic development. He also said he would avoid a “laundry list” approach to transportation projects by setting priorities. He also said he would search for ways to improve regional planning to prevent gridlock, as well as “smart growth” planning in which land development decisions are made in ways that don’t worsen traffic. He reiterated his desire to widen Route 58 to four lanes along the southern flank of Virginia. He has said he supports the Silver Line that will expand Metrorail service into Loudoun County.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Cuccinelli believes marriage should be only between a man and a woman and supports the Virginia constitution’s same-sex marriage ban. In 2010, Cuccinelli told Virginia colleges and universities that they did not have the legal authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, a move that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) reversed by executive order. In the state Senate, he co-sponsored a 2007 bill to add a line to the Virginia constitution saying “life begins at the moment of fertilization.” Some medical groups say such a measure could lead to a ban on some forms of birth control. He said in August that, as governor, “contraception is not something we’re going to regulate, period.” He has tried to preserve Virginia’s anti-sodomy law, which federal courts have deemed unconstitutional in light of a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Virginia law bans oral and anal sex, but Cuccinelli has argued it can’t be “used against consenting adults acting in private.”

McAuliffe supported the June Supreme Court decision that undermined key elements of the Defense of Marriage Act and has said he is “proud to support marriage equality.” He has said he would sign a bill overturning Virginia’s ban on gay marriage if it reaches his desk but added he does not expect that to happen given the GOP’s control of the House of Delegates. McAuliffe has also said he would — like former governors Mark Warner (D) and Timothy M. Kaine (D) — sign an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination within the state government based on sexual orientation. He opposes any effort to pass “personhood” legislation. He has said he believes “women should be able to make their own health-care decisions without interference from Washington or Richmond.” He has criticized Cuccinelli’s continued defense of the anti-sodomy law. The Democrat’s campaign has said he “believes our laws should be updated to both conform with court rulings and allow prosecution of predators.”

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