Road to Richmond: The Economy

Part Two of a week-long series highlighting the major issues in the race for Virginia governor.

I received a phone call one day from a friend who lives in one of the economically devastated regions of the state. My friend said, “I don’t give a damn about where the candidates stand on anything else. I want to know who’s going to bring the jobs back to my city.”

Each of Virginia’s candidates for governor claims to hold the solution to this problem. And, in many ways, the man who convincingly answers my friend’s question will likely win the race.

Republican Bob McDonnell picked up this theme early, adopting the slogan “Bob’s 4 Jobs.”

From the early stages of the campaign, the GOP candidate has sought to make this the defining issue of his campaign.

His proposals include:

  • Doubling the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, which the state uses to entice business to set-up shop in Virginia
  • Appointing Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling as the state’s first job czar
  • Offering a tax credit of $1,000 per job created, for businesses that create 50 new jobs statewide or 25 new jobs in economically challenged areas
  • Focusing on energy jobs, including those created by offshore oil and natural gas drilling

McDonnell frequently talks about “keeping taxes, regulation and litigation low” in order to create a strong business climate. He says that includes limiting union influence and protecting Virginia’s status as a right-to-work state.

Democrat Creigh Deeds has sharply criticized several portions of McDonnell’s plan.

First, Deeds points out that McDonnell twice voted against expanding the Governor’s Opportunity Fund during the administration of Gov. Mark Warner (D). McDonnell’s response is that those were different times during which the state was not struggling economically. Deeds calls this “an election year conversion” on the part of his opponent.

Another Democratic criticism of McDonnell’s jobs plan is the idea of appointing Bolling job czar. Deeds says that position shouldn’t be delegated to anyone else.

Finally, Deeds blasts the tax credit portion of McDonnell’s proposal, saying that most small business that make up the backbone of Virginia’s economy wouldn’t qualify because they have fewer than 50 employees.

McDonnell brushes off a lot of this criticism by reminding folks that he’s received endorsements from numerous Virginia business organizations.

Of course, McDonnell is not the only person hoping to own the jobs vote.

Deeds, too, wants Virginians to believe he is more qualified to turn around the state’s economy.

His plan includes:

  • Doubling the Governor’s Opportunity Fund
  • Creating a tax credit to companies for every new job created in Virginia
  • Focus on green energy jobs
  • Using transportation improvements to jumpstart the economy

Deeds often reminds voters that his plan will give a tax credit to businesses for every job created. Unlike McDonnell’s proposal, there is no threshold, and Deeds highlights this point.

He also says that there is no better way to fix the economy than to fix transportation. Deeds believes his transportation and economic plans are permanently linked.

McDonnell has ripped Deeds on economic issues, saying the Democrat will raise taxes and bring more union influence to Virginia.

Indeed, some of Deeds’ top donors have been national labor unions. But he says it is unfair to call him a typical tax-and-spend Democrat. He said he will not raise general fund taxes, though he is open to the idea of a tax increase to pay for transportation.

McDonnell and Republicans say doing so, possibly through an increase to the gas tax, would destroy small businesses.

Based on recent poll numbers, it appears McDonnell’s arguments are resonating with voters. Next week, we’ll know whether Virginians think he’s the man who can best answer my friend’s question.

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One Response to Road to Richmond: The Economy

  1. Summer N says:

    It sounds like both candidates have the same plan for creating jobs. They both want to bribe job-creators with taxpayer money. I’m not sure if it will work, and it’s definitely been tried before.

    Rather than meddling in the private sector, why not just do a better job in the public sector? Spend the stimulus money, for heavens’ sake. Virginia ranks 50th in federal spending per person according to this datamasher.org chart. Spending that money would create jobs directly.

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