Like a bad penny, the idea of extending the term limit on Virginia’s governor from one to two terms has reappeared. Usually it’s Republicans who’ve fronted the concept, with Del. Bob Purkey often leading the way with legislation that makes a few pre-session headlines, but then disappears.
Now state Democrats are going to see if they can make headway with the two-term limit by incorporating the idea into a larger government reform package.
Regrettably, the arguments for extending the term limit haven’t gotten any better over the years, as Del. Bob Brink demonstrates. The single term limit, he contends:
…makes the governor “a lame duck the minute he takes his hand off the bible,” said Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington). That also leads governors to “kick the can down the road” on tough problems that require long-term planning, such as transportation, Brink said.
The only governor who comes close to Brink’s image is Tim Kaine, who continually tried to raise taxes on this, that and the other and was rebuffed each time — even by his own party. His recent predecessors managed to do quite well during their single terms — George Allen eliminated parole, Jim Gilmore won his car tax relief, and Mark Warner managed to get his tax increase. Mr. Kaine’s successor, Bob McDonnell, has whittled away at the state’s budget and will very likely help steer a property rights amendment through the General Assembly. He managed to implement a series of VDOT audits that found more than a billion dollars under the office cushions, is looking to shore-up transportation funding and somehow managed to become a contender for the national GOP ticket. All in just two years.
And yes, Gov. McDonnell, like his predecessors, has a thing for consecutive terms, too.
But they all seek to address a problem that doesn’t exist. Virginia governors have, largely, done pretty well for themselves and the state under the one-and-done rule. The single term gives them focus. It also gives them the freedom to tackle issues that would otherwise be kicked down the road with all the other cans.
Or think of it this way: when you point your finger, you have three fingers pointing back at you (go ahead, try it). Mr. Brink’s pointing at the one-term limit as the source of Richmond’s myopia is a dodge. The real can-kicking culprits are legislators. And they have no limits on their terms at all.