Schapiro: Surplus Mostly Allocated; Key Lawmakers Skeptical on ABC Selloff
Jeff Schapiro analyzes the week in state politics.
Farrar: Jeff Schapiro joins us now from the Richmond Times Dispatch for his regular Friday analysis of Virginia political news. Hello, Jeff.
Schapiro: Good morning, Wayne.
Farrar: Governor McDonnell told lawmakers this week that the state has over 400 million dollars in the bank, but IOU's will claim most of it.
Schapiro: And the question is, is it a surplus as the governor says, or is it merely savings as the Democrats argue? We're in the throes, apparently, still in the throes of a recession, and needless to say, there have been substantial consequences for the economy, excuse me, the state budget, we're spending at levels not seen since 2007, so there's been an enormous amount of shrinkage and largely, this budget has been, you know, kept aloft with these big cuts, with a big handout from the Obama administration and Congress, and also this raid, or this perceived raid, on the retirement system. So Bob McDonnell has some decisions to make with what little remains in terms of actual discretionary dollars of that 400 million dollars or so. Only about 71 million dollars can be thrown around, and one of the things that Bob McDonnell says that he might do is throw some of that at that big loan the state took from the retirement system, 620 million dollars. This is a sensitive subject with a lot of Republicans; they think it really dings up their image, or at least the image they think they have as fiscal conservative.
Farrar: The Governor took his town hall-style tour to Chester to promote, among other things, the state getting out of the liquor business, but some influential lawmakers are saying 'not so fast, those liquor stores are a cash cow.'
Schapiro: Indeed, and the latest influential legislator is Lacey Putney, not a name one hears a lot around here, but he's a fairly influential fellow; he's the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, so he controls the state budget on the House side of the Capitol, and while he says he's not actually making a commitment one way or another on this, he has pretty much said he is questioning the governor's arithmetic, he doesn't think this is gonna raise as much money as the governor says; certainly not the transportation he claims 500 million dollars that McDonnell says can be generated through the sale of licenses is literally pocket change for the transportation system, and the other word that Putney is using, one hasn't heard recently, is 'corruption,' that somehow with a private system, the state would perhaps be introduced to the wrong element of people.
Farrar: We have just over three minutes to go, Jeff. The bitter dispute nationally over the proposal to build a mosque near the destroyed World Trade Center in lower Manhattan has become a political issue just about everywhere because this is, of course, a Congressional election year. Virginia candidates have weighed in.
Schapiro: At least two Republican challengers, Morgan Griffith in the 9th District in Southwestern Virginia and Robert Hurd in the 5th District in Southside Virginia, are talking about this issue and, you know, one wonders, what does it have to do with the primary concern of voters? Jobs, the economy, I think the word probably is nothing, but it is all about drawing bright lines and scaring voters and stirring up the Republican base. The Democrats aren't gonna be nearly as excited this year as they have been in past years, certainly with all this grim economic news, but the Republicans are doing what they can to gin up their votes. One wonders would there be as much of an uproar in Richmond if, say, General Grant's family had a picnic on the grounds of the UDC crypt on the Boulevard?
Farrar: Former senator George Allen seems to be increasingly gearing up for another run for his former Senate seat in 2012.
Schapiro: Yes, and he's scheduled to appear before a Jewish group in Northern Virginia to talk about his Jewish origins, which he claims were all a secret to him; but clearly this is a continuing effort by Allen to kind of reinvent himself as a sensitive, humble guy, and I guess the question is, you know, how long and low will he go to get back into high office, in this case, the Senate seat that Jim Webb narrowly swiped from him in 2006, and a lot of questions about what Allen would do with the Senate seat were he re-elected, were he returned to the Senate, that is, perhaps standing for the Presidency in 2016, which is something he was apparently doing when he was defeated in 2006.
Farrar: Jeff, we have about a minute and fifteen seconds. A former Richmond editor who spearheaded Virginia's massive resistance to school desegregation back in the 1950's, then went on to become a nationally prominent columnist and commentator, James J. Kilpatrick, died this week.
Schapiro: Jim Kilpatrick, known in this building and to his friends and even his adversaries as 'Kilpo,' was probably a fairly, one of the most eloquent defenders of the segregationist status quo in Richmond and across the South. He used that position to vault himself into prominence as a national conservative commentator; in later life, he renounced his positions on segregation and massive resistance, saying that if it had done anything, it had allowed Virginia to move toward integration with little, if any, violence.
Farrar: Our time is just about gone for today, Jeff. Any final words? We have about twenty seconds.
Schapiro: Well, I can't imagine that people are wondering too much more about this ABC privatization thing, we're dashing off to the state stores this weekend, maybe think about this issue over cocktails.
Farrar: So far it doesn't seem to have stirred up much public excitement one way or the other.
Schapiro: The big businesses like it because you can make a lot of money at it.
Farrar: Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch. Thanks, Jeff.