RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe marked his 100th day in office Monday by trumpeting a range of accomplishments and vowing to redouble efforts to push for Medicaid expansion.
In a morning speech at the Library of Virginia and in a glossy 32-page booklet titled “100 Days of Action,” McAuliffe (D) recapped work to strengthen ethics in government, prioritize transportation spending and reform standardized testing in public schools, among other things.
A former Democratic National Committee chairman and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe assumed his first elective office in January vowing to put partisanship aside and work in the “Virginia way” to improve the commonwealth.
He gave an upbeat assessment of his progress Monday despite some difficulties — the biggest being House Republicans’ seeming immunity to the governor’s legendary power to schmooze. Those legislators, who have rebuffed McAuliffe on Medicaid, responded to his 100-day horn-tooting by noting that some of the largest victories he claimed originated with Republican bills.
McAuliffe took stock of his administration at a time when his biggest priority, expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, remains in limbo, with the evenly divided Senate on his side but the Republican-dominated House resolutely opposed. The impasse has prevented passage of the state budget and threatens to shutter state government if it is not resolved before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. McAuliffe made no mention of a potential shutdown or partisan gridlock in his speech.
“Since my first day in office, I, along with members of my administration, have worked hard to find mainstream, common-sense solutions to problems and create a stronger and more economically competitive commonwealth,” McAuliffe said. “We have already made significant progress in investing our transportation dollars wisely, creating more jobs in every region of the commonwealth and preparing our workforce for a 21st-century economy.”
Matthew Moran, spokesman for House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), said many of those legislative accomplishments were led by Republicans.
“Ethics reform, transportation innovation and SOL [Standards of Learning testing] reform were all initiatives that House Republican leaders announced before the Governor even took office,” Moran said via e-mail.
McAuliffe said nearly 5,000 jobs have been created during his administration. Some, including the 20 jobs at the new Chaos Mountain Brewing in Franklin County, were announced the same month he took office, suggesting that they may have been on the way before he took office. His booklet also celebrates a deal to convert the landmark Natural Bridge from private property to a state park.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said that some of those deals were in the works before his boss took office, but he said that even as governor-elect, McAuliffe was working to draw jobs to Virginia. And Coy said that the Natural Bridge deal “was not set in stone” — he begged pardon for the pun — when the governor took office. “That did genuinely require some gubernatorial leadership to bring that home,” he said.
In any case, Coy said the governor was seeking to highlight progress in the state, not to claim all of the credit for it.
“It’s never been his first interest to litigate who gets credit for what,” Coy said. “These are good things for Virginia, and that’s really what he wanted to tout.”
McAuliffe gets mixed reviews from political observers and activists, all of whom said it was too early in the governor’s term to really judge.
Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, has been pleased with McAuliffe’s support for the cybersecurity industry and larger tax credits for research and development.
A member of a state university’s board of visitors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend the governor, took a dimmer view of McAuliffe’s performance, in part because the budget impasse has prevented universities from setting tuition for next year. He said McAuliffe had not been as hands-on as his predecessor, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).
“It’s wrecking havoc on the universities,” the board member said. “McDonnell was on the phone this time of the year, pushing down tuition increases.”
Some women’s groups said they were pleased with McAuliffe, even though so far he has not made good on a promise to roll back building code restrictions on abortion clinics.
“For us, his commitment to Medicaid expansion really shows his dedication to women’s health,” said Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.
Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, praised McAuliffe for restoring voting rights to 800 nonviolent felons and for pushing for Medicaid expansion. She said her only disappointment was that McAuliffe did not push for stricter ethics reforms from the General Assembly in the wake of a gifts scandal that led to the indictment of McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, on federal corruption charges shortly after McAuliffe took office.