On the day the Republican governor was proudly announcing a $311 million budget surplus with the prospect of being even $40 million more in the black, the ratings service announced that Virginia could be one of five states to see its pristine AAA credit rating tarnished if Congress and President Obama don’t reach a budget deal and raise the federal debt limit by Aug. 3. The news came just as McDonnell was beaming about the surplus, some of which comes such schemes from deferring payments to the state pension system.
“I’m very unhappy. In fact, we’re furious” about the ratings problem, he said at a news conference. I guess I can understand why. Virginia has had the best possible credit since 1938. McDonnell has come on strong, rightly or wrongly, as a paragon of fiscal responsibility. This is his party credo and raison d’être. If he goes down in history as the governor on whose watch the state’s credit rating was downgraded, despite plenty of Democrats having been in the governor’s mansion over the years, well, it won’t look good.
Another issue is McDonnell’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that, whether he likes it or not, Virginia is a major locus of federal jobs. The Old Dominion is chock-a-block with defense and intelligence installations, along with other units such as the Federal Aviation Administration, and so on. This is one of the reasons Moody’s served notice on such high-government-worker states as Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee. If the feds lose their AAA credit rating, so, too, will the places where they employ a lot of people.
In his quest for jobs, McDonnell always puts special emphasis that the ones he’s helped create are “private,” as if that’s somehow more politically correct than having more public-sector jobs. Government work doesn’t fit with current GOP dogma. Apparently, federal workers are less desirable and certainly greedier than their private-sector counterparts.
Of course, that’s nonsense, and McDonnell ought of to know it. He grew up in Northern Virginia, a haven for the civil service, and was educated in defense-saturated Hampton Roads. Federal money has saved Virginia from having a much higher unemployment rate than it does.
If McDonnell is worried about what Moody’s might do, he does have a remedy at hand, though. It’s simple. Call up his fellow Republican, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and tell him to stop acting like a spoiled kid and work for a bipartisan way out of the federal budget mess. It’s a win-win thing they both should understand.