May 25, 2013

VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL Ken Cuccinelli, who’s hoping voters promote him to governor in November, has had an election-year epiphany. He now says that jobs, rather than the incendiary social issues that have been his stock in trade for years, are of paramount concern to Virginians.

We wonder how Mr. Cuccinelli’s 11th-hour conversion squares with his recent attempts to torpedo the most important transportation funding measure to emerge from Richmond in 27 years. Does Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, believe that keeping Virginians stuck in worsening traffic, with no prospect of major new revenue to expand highways and rail systems, would help keep jobs and attract new companies to the commonwealth?

Virtually every significant private-sector group in Virginia — the vaunted job creators that Mr. Cuccinelli lauds — would disagree. That’s why they lobbied for lawmakers to break a logjam and support the compromise package enacted in February, which is expected to yield about $1.4 billion annually in new funding. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor, also backed the transportation package and lobbied his party’s lawmakers to vote for it.

Mr. Cuccinelli and his running mate, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, the GOP candidate for attorney general, backed a competing plan that would have cut transportation funding next year. That is not helpful in a state whose resources for new construction projects are nearly depleted. By the end of the decade, the plan would have yielded some additional money — mainly as a function of linking revenue to inflation — but only a pittance measured against the state’s needs.

That plan went nowhere. When Mr. Cuccinelli failed to get his way, he issued a legal opinion on the last day of the General Assembly’s legislative session that briefly threatened to derail the compromise package backed not only by most Democrats but also by top Republicans, including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

Both Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Obenshain, of Harrisonburg, offered elaborate explanations for opposing the new law. But it came down to one thing: Both were signatories to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes.

The ideological purity of professing fealty to a lobbyist like Mr. Norquist is unbecoming of governors — and inconvenient for gubernatorial candidates. It’s good that Mr. Cuccinelli has renounced the no-taxes pledge.

E.W. Jackson, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor who has said that Democrats are agents of the Antichrist, seems confused about his position on transportation. Although he also signed the Norquist pledge, he supported Mr. McDonnell’s original transportation proposal, which would have generated some $3 billion in new revenue over five years. However, he opposed one of its main provisions that accounted for a third of the forecast revenue.