Virginia Democrats will choose their nominee for governor in a primary Tuesday between former Lt. Gov. henry E. Howell and former Attorney General Andrew P. Miller. Howell was interviewed on May 26 by Washington Post reporters and editors. A transcript of the interview follows. Because of space restrictions some answers have been shortened.
Q: There are those who say that the tremendous amount of coal mine money that's going to both your campaign and Andrew Miller's campaign is going to pretty much blunt efforts to control and regulate strip mining in Southwest Vriginia. How do you answer those criticisms?
A: I don't think that's true. Number one, we've reached a point in this nation where the standards are going to be set by the United States government and so whoever's governor of Virginia won't have too much choice.
Q: Do you favor the proposed government standards for strip mining?
A: No, I do not, not as they are structured. It's typical of this nation to react to a problem. We contaminated our world, we destroyed one or more of the Great Lakes, we ruined the James River, adversely affected the Chesapeake Bay, but now we want to recreate the Earth and all that is in it, make it just like God made it in the beginning, and it can't be done. Now we're setting a national nonexception set of rules for harvesting coal, better known as stripping coal. (You're not going to say that anymore, you talk about surface mining, not strip mining.)
For strip mining, we're setting one national standard, under the proposed federal regultions without any consideration about how God made Heaven and Earth. We have mountains as steep as Swiss Alps and it's impossible to restore those mountains to original configuration or approximate original contour, and they shouldn't be, because they need land out there. The Chinese found that you had to terrace mountains to produce land to live on, and they need land. You got to go out there and see how desperately they need land - that's Number One. And you can reforest, you can reseed, you can provide safeguards for the rivers and streams below, all of that can be done, and still permit this coal to be removed inside of these steep mountains.
My point is that here we have an area of Virginia where the people have suffered, 80 per cent of their families have less than $10,000. They have the greatest percentage of people over 25 that don't have a high school education, and it's very simple. Real estate! is still the main source of revenue for the local contribution to public education, and you can't do anything out there, I'm talking about these four coal mining counties - the only thing you can do out there is mine coal.
Q: How far would you go in seeking industry? What type of concessions, if any, do you think the state ought to make?
A: I can't think of any. I believe that an affirmative, intellegent presentation of Virginia would bring industry in here. I think it's one of the best places to do business in the United States of America.
Q: Your critics say that you are less favorable to business (than Miller).
A: I don't know who they, may critics, are but they're out of step with Virginia, I know that. The main ingredient of good dividends in a successful business operation is labor, the people. But this is a most expensive factor in what you're producing. I can persuade (business) that Virginians can be the most productive people because we haven't surrounded, we're not completely surrounded by problems. For example, Ford Motor Co. in Norfolk has received national recognition for building the best automobiles and now the best trucks, because workers go home where they can go fishing, hunt, if they want to, and they come back to the assembly line renewed and ready to be productive.
Q: In the process of attracting industry to Virginia would you emphasize the right to work law?
A: No, I'm not going to emphasize the right to work law, you don't get productivity on cheap labor. We've got two candidates saying come to Virginia because we are plantation and you can get cheap labor. Now I'm not going out organizing unions, or saying anything about unions, but I'm not going to brag that you're going to get cheap labor. If we just had the same per capita income as Maryland, we'd have over a billion dollars of additional revenue to spend.
Q: What would you say your priorities are for your administration.
A: I want to first restorethe confidence to the people of Virginia in their government and its ability to deliver the services they pay for. And do this by involing them in the decision making process as much as is practicable. Having a regional office and giving them the right to initiative, the right of citizens to petition. To have issues placed on statewide ballots which 34 states have and we don't have. Where if ERA stays bottled up 5 years in the Privileges and Elections Committee of the House because it's too close to call - then the people can put it on the ballot.
Q: . . . How do you rate those different planks and priorities?
A: Number one is to get the confidence of the people. A governor's got to lead, I can't lead unless I got the people with me. It's just like Jimmy Carter, if I got the people with me this new General Assembly which is brand new is going to go along . . . My statement is that there will be no general tax increase during the four years. That's my statement and it's pretty clear cut. I already stated that the time has come to reapportion governmental authority . . . And I'm recommending more home rule. I think its essential.
You know, it'd be foolish for me, Henry Howell, been out of office for 3 years, to sit here today and definitely say this, this, this, and this ought to be powers allocated to localities instead of the state. I've been the first to speak out on reallocation of resources and more home rule and Andy wants to study it. He wants analysis, paralysis, and finalysis.
The state's in pretty good shape, I mean, its just got to move. I mean, we got over $7 billion that we're getting every two years to spend. I want to have diversification and trasnportation.
The two top priorities in my administration will be, take the money and give priority to education and public employees, because I think they are two essences of the good life, and of the progressive state.
Q: Specifically, in education?
A: I want more vocational education schools, the best in the nation, because I think that's the way to get good jobs.
I think the economy's going to move, and when it moves, we're going to wind up with surpluses. We had huge surpluses in 1969 and 1970, we built community colleges all over this state, and still had money left over, huge sums of money left over.
Q: When you're talking about education as a priority, would you increase the state formula to provide aid to local jurisdictions?
A: If I gave them alternative funding resources they might not need it. We're not going to tell them to do something that they don't have the money to do it with. The state's either going to assume additional responsibility or give them the means to do it with.
Q: What would you do with public employees? Increase their salaries?
A: The state public employees, we're going to see that they have a wage that is competitive with similar activities in the private sector. I'm not talking about an IBEW construction electrician, but I'm talking about a municipal electrician.
Q: Would you put a money figure on that, do you have any idea what that might be?
A: Whatever it is, we are going to give.
Q: Suppose the economy stays relatively the same, suppose it desn't take off like you say?
A: I don't care what, public employees are going to be paid, because the most wasteful thing you can do, is to pay a worker less - far less - than they're entitled to. You can go to the bathroom more and you can drink more coffee and shuffle more papers, because you're mad at what you're making, and I can tell you, we can waste millions.
Q: Where does the money come from, general tax increases?
A: Well, to tell you, it comes from making that a priority. We're on the move, there's going to be plenty of money, and if Jimmy Carter stumbles, then we're going to be in a Depression - we'll all be in a helluva shape.
Q: Do you think the state employees as a whole are efficient and the state government is functioning at the proper level of efficiency?
A: I can't tell you. All I know about is what the state employees tell me about waste, and they want to stop it. Now I haven't been in the kitchen and up in the attic yet. But I know how wasteful my household has become since World War II. I don't know whether you all examined what you were doing prior to World War II and what you're doing in 1960. But you know there's a lot of waste and unnecessary expenditure all over. You take hairspray. I don't know whether you use hairspray or not, or shaving lotion. I don't know whether you use any of these things, but we do, you know what I mean, and it's unnecessary, and it's waste. And the same waste that we as individuals have indulged in has been indulged in by every level of government. We can have government without hairspray, and it'll be just as good hair. We can have government without shaving lotion and it'll be just as good, if not better.
Q: Do you think that Virginia is essentially still a racially segregated society?
A: No, not essentially. I think the U.S. is still very much divided, maybe more so in certain sections of New York or California than in Virginia. We don't go to church together. We don't go to the Rotary Club together. We don't go to the Moose together and so forth. But I think there's been a rapid change . . . the younger generation has a complete sense of equality and that's moving along. And I think there's a certain amount of desire on the part of blacks and whites to remain separate. If blacks aren't anxious I mean we can be rather dull - very dull . . . white people. Because of our traditions and our disciplines, and the artificiality of certain things . . . you can't blow a whistle in Virginia, you can't wear a baseball cap in Virginia, it's unstatesmanlike. But Congressman Fauntroy can sing at the end of his address and it's perfectly all right so he has more fun than another congressman. I get more out of going to the Baptist Church. But I go to my life long Church - the Episcopal Church. Black people have fun and they let me have it with them.
Q: Some of your friends and critics both seem to agree that you could have been governor a long time ago if you had been willing to make certain compromises. Certain understandings with the establishment.
A: I mean, there was no cance. There wouldn't be any need for me to be governor. If I had to go into partnership with them, nothing I was interested in - I would have been able to do. That's going along, getting along chloraform, conform.
Q: If you approach say, the typical Northern Virginian on the street, why would you tell him that he should vote for you and not Andrew Miller?
A: Because I've witnessed for Northern Virginia. I joined in going to the Supreme Court to bring one man one vote, which got Northern Virginia more delegates and more senators than they've ever had before. Then by myself, I went to the Supreme Court of Virginia and reapportioned Congress and gave them control over two congressional seats, now held by Herb Harris and Joe Fisher. I sued Governor Godwin and won $40 million more for public education, held down their real estate taxes by that much as a result of Henry Howell's law suit, and I was the first to suggest the state contribute to transportation, and I'll stop.