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By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009

In recent weeks, the gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds has been rapping Republican candidate Robert F. McDonnell for a transportation plan that Democrats say would take $5.4 billion from public schools to fix the state's sorry roads.

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The premise is based on the idea that McDonnell would tap money from the general fund to pay for his transportation plan. About 46 percent of the general fund spending goes to education, with the rest to health and human resources (24.2 percent) and public safety (11.1 percent).

Republicans, however, have been doing some tallying, too, and they say Deeds has promised 33 new spending initiatives in the campaign. They argue that if you follow Deeds's logic, and if the money for these initiatives is coming from the general fund, then Deeds, too, would be stealing from education.

Citing Deeds's campaign platform, public remarks and news articles, Republicans list 33 Deeds pledges that would take money from the general fund. Among them: property tax relief for disabled veterans; tax incentives for small businesses that pay a portion of employee health-care insurance; investing in research to produce clean coal; doubling the Governor's Opportunity Fund; and adding $10 million in job training.

It's not clear what some proposals would cost, because Deeds has not been specific. And sometimes the Republicans accuse Deeds of wanting to spend more money on programs simply because he has said nice things about the programs.

But the Republicans' point is well-taken. Although it's fair to question whether steering more money from the general fund into roads could require shifting money away from schools, as McDonnell might do, it is also fair to ask whether Deeds could carry through on his promises without also taking dollars from schools.

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