“Bob’s for Jobs” … Virginia wins with McDonnell’s pragmatic conservative leadership


On election night in November 2009, many of us were at the jam-packed Richmond Marriott listening to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” playing in the background as it was jubilantly announced that Bob McDonnell had won the gubernatorial race. The win was historic. He had won with the most votes of any governor in Virginia history by running an incredible campaign on the economy and “Bob’s for Jobs” and, in the process, helped sweep in a wave of Republicans with him.

It was a victorious evening following years of GOP losses. McDonnell had brought the Republican Party of Virginia back after losing two straight gubernatorial races (2001, 2005), two straight U.S. Senate races (2006, 2008), and a presidential race (2008).

The new governor hit the ground running, fulfilling his campaign promise to immediately reopen the 19 rest areas and welcome centers that had been closed by Democrat Tim Kaine in the final six months of his administration after he claimed there was not enough money to keep them open.

McDonnell then went to work on his campaign promise of jobs. Virginia’s unemployment is now down to 5.5%, the lowest in four years, the lowest in the Southeast, and the lowest east of the Mississippi. Bob’s for Jobs.

All along the way, this pragmatic conservative leader pushed for what was best for Virginia. Public service has been his life. A 21-year U.S. Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, he served in the Virginia legislature as a delegate before becoming attorney general and then governor.

When McDonnell took the oath as governor, he knew he was inheriting a transportation problem that had hung over previous occupants of the Executive Mansion for decades. Reminiscent of “Dave” in the movie of the same name, he and his staff figuratively took out the red pencil and went to work auditing, cutting, and abolishing unnecessary expenditures.

They tried everything from privatizing Virginia’s ABC stores (voted down by the General Assembly) to auditing VDOT to using all the Commonwealth’s debt capacity available to build roads. The math didn’t work out. So he assembled a broad coalition of over 60 transportation, business, and labor groups to press for immediate action on the 27-year problem, reaching out to Democrats as well as Republicans.

The final plan was submitted to the 2013 General Assembly but it was kicked to committee where a compromise was hammered out. The historic landmark legislation passed in the General Assembly with a bipartisan vote of 44 Republicans and 43 Democrats.

In 2010 when McDonnell stepped into the governor’s office, he inherited the largest budget deficit in the history of the Commonwealth with a $4.2 billion budget introduced by outgoing Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. No governor had ever taken office confronting a budget shortfall of that size. By reducing spending instead of tax hikes, McDonnell was able to close the historic budget shortfall and reduce state spending to 2006 levels. He ended the session with 80 percent of his legislative proposals passing the General Assembly.

In 2011, legislators passed 92 percent of the Governor’s legislative proposals. One was his bipartisan “Top Jobs” higher education reform act that created the pathway for 100,000 more degrees to be awarded in the Commonwealth over the next 15 years, prompting Democratic State Senator Edd Houck to note, “Some have suggested this is the most significant and comprehensive higher education initiative since the creation of the Community College System 40 years ago.” He also gained legislative approval for elimination of various boards and commissions to make state government smaller and more efficient.  CNBC named Virginia their Top State for Business and reported that the Old Dominion received the highest point total in the history of their rankings. That same year, Pollina Corporate named Virginia the “Most Pro-business State in the Nation,” and noted, “Virginia is the unquestionable brightest star on the American flag when it comes to being pro-business … Virginia is truly in a class by itself.”

In 2012, the Governor saw 88 percent of his agenda passed by the General Assembly. Unemployment was at 5.6 percent which was 23% lower than when he took office two years earlier. Agricultural exports reached an all-time high, and cattle were to be exported to Canada for the first time in Virginia history. Soybeans were shipped to China, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters announced 800 jobs in Isle of Wight, Amazon.com brought over 1,300 new jobs, and the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population soared back to a 20-year high. Good year.

The 2013 session just concluded and the Governor saw 88 percent of his legislation passed by the General Assembly including the landmark transportation bill that will fund roads, infrastructure, and other projects throughout the Commonwealth.

Three years after taking office, Bob McDonnell’s leadership has produced a string of accomplishments that will positively benefit the Commonwealth into the future.

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  • Obviously you guys have your own definition of “conservative” that has nothing at all to do with the historical and commonly understood meanings of the term.

    Conservatives don’t expand government – period. Someone who does needs to pick a different term if they don’t want to be called out as a fraud.

    • there is no ‘you guys’. Every contributor writes their own opinion. The only group opinions are from the Bearing Drift Editorial Board.

    • More taxes does not always equal expanding government.

      • Let’s hear the Schoeneman definition of what exactly constitutes an expansion of government, please.

        • Regulating areas that haven’t been regulated, laws that create new agencies, departments or programs, or expanded entitlements.

          • Is there really a requirement that a department or agency be “new” for it to be considered expansion? Wouldn’t you agree that making an existing agency or department larger also qualifies as “expansion”?

          • If doing so is the result of adding missions or increasing the scope of the agency’s legal reach, then yes. If we are simply talking about hiring more staff to do the job that already exists, I don’t think that’s the point. I’m not going to worry about an expansion of the tyrannical nanny state if the social security administration hires and extra dozen clerks to get the checks out on time.

          • Ever hear of a tax hike for the purpose of hiring an extra dozen clerks for the Social Security administration?

          • Sure. And I don’t view that as an expansion of government. They are simply trying to provide a service that’s already out there better. You don’t have the government interfering to a greater extent in the market, you don’t have them regulating something that wasn’t regulated before – in essence, no one lost a freedom or had their rights trampled upon.

            Taxes are a necessary evil, and they should be kept as low as possible. Raising them should generally be the last resort.

          • In this case, taxes weren’t a last resort, they appear to have been a first resort – which they usually are. I didn’t see any exploration at all of alternatives; there was no proposal at all along the lines of “instead of raising taxes, we’ll cut spending on these other things since transportation is more important”. Nobody even looked, it appears, or if they did they were willfully blind to these alternatives.

            The problem here is that there’s no incentive for the government not to waste money if it can raise taxes – there are no market pressures that, in the private arena, keep costs down and put poor performers out of business. The cost/size of government go in one direction, always up – never down. At some point the trend puts every aspect of private life in the hands of the government, and we’re quite close to that point right now.

            Therefore it is incumbent upon us to refuse to permit any new taxes, to provide the only downward pressure there is to the cost of government.

            It’s easy to say taxes should be a last resort, but if they were in this case, that list of resorts must be awfully short. Sounds like a list of one, which is consistent with the government behavior we have seen to date.

          • Let me add a little something more here. The conservative approach to this situation is not to ask the people who don’t want new taxes for alternatives; it’s to ask the people who want to impose the new taxes for alternatives.

            The reason why this is so is because the citizens of the state aren’t slaves. Their pocketbooks are not free game to the government to take from whenever it pleases, in any amount it pleases. That’s not the relationship between the citizens and the government in a free country. If someone wants the government to take (by force, as all government takings are) more from the people, they need to be the ones to provide the compelling argument.

            It’s fine and good to ask for alternatives, as you did. But you were asking the wrong people. The people who need to propose alternatives should be the ones demanding the tax increase, and the public should decide whether it prefers doing without some other government function(s), or to pay higher taxes in lieu of making a cut elsewhere.

            This is how a conservative thinks. Perhaps it would be a good exercise for you to ask those insiders of your acquaintance what, if any, alternatives to tax hikes were explored and/or proposed before settling on new taxes as the solution. I would really like to hear what those alternatives were, because I’m sure not hearing them from the politicos. Maybe you can find out for us?

            For the record, my expectation is that none of them will have any considered alternatives to offer you. But perhaps, as some here think, that is just my tinfoil hat speaking. Let’s put it to the test.

          • We’ve already explored the alternatives. McDonnell passed a transportation plan a two years ago that didn’t rely on tax cuts, took savings from an audit of VDOT, a package of bonds and loan guarantees in order to get to something around $3 billion in new money for roads. It was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and included a lot of gimmicks that were attacked by the Democrats, like basing loans off of anticipated – but not yet appropriated – federal money.

            I don’t need to be told how a conservative thinks. These folks have already gone through the alternatives. If you think that there is a single Republican in the Virginia legislature who thinks that tax increases are the first, go to option, you’re delusional.

            From a political standpoint, given the 20-20 split in the Senate and the lack of any real Senate Democratic conservatives who could be split off, there was simply no way to push through cuts the Democrats wouldn’t accept in order to get more money for transportation, especially considering that Democrats have staunchly refused for decades to spend one dime of general fund revenue on transportation. The fact that the governor squeeze a couple hundred million in general fund money out of the Democrats is being ignored, but that’s a huge victory. Cuts, while preferable, were simply not politically feasible. Bolling can’t break a tie on a budget bill.

            There were plenty of alternative plans out there, including the governor’s original plan that was supposed to be revenue neutral in the first year and would only have increased revenues as the economy grew. That didn’t work because the Dems wouldn’t accept it. They held it up because of redistricting, and later for the medicaid expansion. The bill that resulted was the only real plan that had the legs to stand on its own.

            No, it’s not ideal, but it’s how governing works when you’ve got two parties who are diametrically opposed on many issues.

  • Nate

    Are you serious? If I want a $6 billion tax increase I got Obama. Calling the largest tax increase in VA history “conservative” is a joke. Bob sold out near the end of his term. He has given GOP another black eye. The party will not recover with sellouts like Bob running the show. Thank goodness we found his desire to cave on tax increases before he got further in politics. He’s done.

  • Nothing like reading the various excuses made for the GOP sell out. Human beings have a remarkable ability to rationalize their bad behavior.

  • McDonnell was more fiscally responsible than Tim Kaine. Congrats. That’s like being better at basketball then Stephen Hawking.

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