Virginia’s New Governor Vows to Build Bipartisan Administration

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Following in the hallowed footsteps of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, Terry McAuliffe (D) is now the governor-elect of the Commonwealth of Virginia, having narrowly defeated the current Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli (R) on Tuesday night. In historical trivia, this is the first time in nearly forty years that the Commonwealth has elected a governor from the same party as the one leading the country. They have also elected a governor who has never held any other elected office.  But as a successful fundraiser and former Democratic National Committee chairman, McAuliffe has very strong ties and support from many high-profile democrats, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

So, now you have to ask, after the thrill of victory subsides, and the new governor is sworn into office, how will he implement his campaign promises, and how will his policies alter the course of Virginia’s future?

The Old Dominion State that McAuliffe will soon shepherd, enjoyed a $3.3 billion increase in migrated wealth from 1992 thru 2010. The majority of this wealth was gained from its surrounding states, and District of Columbia. This year, the Commonwealth was also awarded a #1 rating by Forbes, as being the Best State for Business. Clearly, a positive trajectory for this politically purple state.

According to data collected from exit polling, there was a clear split in the electorate. Voters concerned with these economic issues were lured by Ken Cuccinelli’s personal income and business tax reform proposals. Those on the other hand, who were concerned with increased social programs and thought Cuccinelli was just too conservative, tended to vote for McAuliffe, whose platform was laced with them:

  • Expansion of Medicaid
  • Better retirement benefits for teachers.
  • Higher spending on K-12 education.
  • Increased research funds for higher education.
  • Increased spending on tourism.
  • Increased spending on inner-city passenger rail.
  • Expanded rail service throughout Virginia.
  • Increased funding for rural health care.
  • Increased funding for mental health.

When asked the logical question of whether tax increases for these items may be in the offing for Virginians, McAuliffe answered “no,” with no real explanation.

Throughout his campaign the governor-elect said that upon his election he would call together a “task force” to find revenue-neutral ways of eliminating or reducing several taxes, including the Business Professional Occupational License (BPOL) tax, the Merchants Capital tax, and the Machinery and Tool tax. This may be a tall order since some of the revenues derived from these taxes are part of local government’s revenue stream.

The next four years may be very challenging for the new governor. The election results were certainly not a mandate, and with a Republican controlled House of Delegates, implementing any of his proposals in a strictly partisan way will be impossible. As the new chief executive in Richmond, Terry McAuliffe has already vowed to build an administration that is truly bipartisan. He has started by calling in Republican lawmakers and including them in assembling his new transition team. He stressed that he intends to always reach across the aisle as governor, which is something that he will have to do if he intends to see any of his bold campaign pledges come to fruition.