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Education

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Education

Deeds wants to raise Virginia teacher salaries to the national average. He would expand early education, offering pre-kindergarten classes to more low-income students. He would put more emphasis on math and science and expand a program that allows students to get college credit while in high school. He wants to expand opportunities to take advanced placement and other courses online. He has proposed a scholarship program that would pay half the public college tuition of Virginia students who maintain a B average and pledge two years to public service after graduation. He wants state schools to award 70,000 additional college degrees over the next 10 years.

McDonnell has called for raising teacher salaries to the national average, in part by instituting performance pay to reward successful teachers. He wants to increase the number of charter schools in Virginia, which now has only four, in part by creating a state board to approve charter applications instead of leaving it to local school boards. He has called for mandating that local school systems spend 65 percent of their budgets in the classroom. He wants state schools to award 100,000 additional college degrees over the next 15 years.

Transportation

Deeds has not offered specific proposals to fund transportation improvements. In an op-ed piece published last month in The Washington Post, Deeds said that "all options for funding will be on the table," including a tax increase. He has also said that he would appoint a bipartisan commission to study transportation, and he has pledged to push transportation reform through the General Assembly in his first year in office. Deeds has supported an increase in the gas tax in the past. Now set at 17.5 cents a gallon, the tax generates the bulk of the revenue -- less than $900 million a year -- that Virginia spends on road construction.

McDonnell issued a 20-page transportation plan promising to generate $1.5 billion a year for the next 10 years for road and rail improvements. His ideas include the sale of state liquor stores, heavy borrowing, new tax revenue from growth at Virginia's ports, money from offshore oil and gas drilling and tolls on interstates 95 and 85. He has said he will not support a tax increase to finance transportation improvements. Critics have said several of his estimates are overstated, notably for port revenue, which is currently falling.

Energy and Environment

Deeds has long been a favorite of environmentalists and received the endorsements of both the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. However, he upset some of those advocates recently when he released an ad critical of cap-and-trade legislation moving through Congress. He has proposed making state government much more energy-efficient and requiring 22 percent of the state's energy to come from renewable sources such as wind and biomass by 2025.

McDonnell has said he also supports alternative sources of energy, but on the campaign trail, he has emphasized the role that coal and nuclear power can and do play in meeting Virginia's growing energy demand. He has been sharply critical of cap-and-trade policies, which he has said will eliminate jobs and hurt Virginia's economy.

Both men have said they will preserve 400,000 acres of open space and have pledged to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and they have proposed incentives to attract "green" industries to the state to create jobs. Both have said they would be open to off-shore drilling, but McDonnell has been particularly aggressive, indicating that under his administration, Virginia would in 2011 become the first state on the East Coast to pursue exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas off its coast.

Abortion

McDonnell has said he is against abortion in every instance, including rape and incest, except when the life of the mother is in danger. As a legislator, he supported bills to ban a procedure opponents refer to as partial-birth abortion; to require minors to obtain parental consent before having an abortion; and to mandate a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking one.

Deeds favors abortion rights. He supported bills that required parental notification when a child was seeking an abortion but not bills that required parental consent or a waiting period. He voted for a ban on partial-birth abortion but later changed his mind because he said he worried that the bills were unconstitutional.

Gun control

Both Deeds and McDonnell are strong supporters of gun rights and have high ratings from the National Rifle Association, although McDonnell received the NRA endorsement this year. As legislators, Deeds and McDonnell voted repeatedly to stop localities from enforcing gun laws more restrictive than the state's, including proposed bans on guns at community centers, parks and school campuses. They also voted to limit government lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

McDonnell voted to limit handgun purchases to one a month, but he now supports repealing that limit because, he says, improvements have been made in instant background checks. Deeds opposes the limit.

Deeds opposed closing the so-called loophole that allows some private vendors at gun shows to make sales without background checks, but he changed his mind after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. McDonnell opposes closing the loophole.

Health Care

Deeds has said it is essential for the federal government to reform the health-care system this year to bring down costs and expand access to coverage. He has said that a public health insurance option might help achieve those goals but that it might not be the best approach. He said he would consider having Virginia opt out of offering a public option if given a choice by Congress. He supports the creation of relatively inexpensive catastrophic care plans for small businesses to offer employees and an expansion of state health insurance coverage for low-income pregnant women, children and the unemployed. He supports prohibiting insurers from denying care for preexisting conditions.

McDonnell has said that insurance is too costly and that too many people do not have coverage. But he opposes proposals offered by congressional Democrats, including a public insurance option and mandated coverage. He has said that he would opt out of the public option if Congress gives states a choice. He supports the creation of catastrophic care plans for small-business employees. He would encourage the use of health savings accounts and examine Medicaid for cost savings. He has proposed a tax credit to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance.

Labor

Deeds has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from labor unions. He has said he fully supports Virginia's right-to-work employment laws, which do not allow union membership to be required as a condition of employment. But his support from unions has caused critics to suggest otherwise. Deeds also opposes so-called "card check" legislation being considered in Congress. The legislation would make it possible for unions to organize a workplace by signing up more than 50 percent of the employees, eliminating voting by secret ballot.

McDonnell and his allies have made much of Deeds's having accepted so much union money. He has suggested since early 2009 that unions wouldn't support Virginia Democrats if they didn't expect an advocate for such "job-killing" policies as card check or an end to right-to-work laws. McDonnell has also promised to keep Virginia a low-tax, low-regulation state, and he supported the Virginia legislature's decision to reject $125 million in federal stimulus money to extend unemployment benefits because employers would have had to pick up the additional cost (about $4.50 per employee per year) once the federal dollars ran out.

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