Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch joins WCVE’s Craig Carper for this week’s political analysis. Topics focus on the 2019 General Assembly session.
CC: Welcome, Jeff.
JS: Good Morning.
CC: Jeff, we are in the third day of the first short week of the General Assembly, 2019 General Assembly session. Governor Northam has on Wednesday used his State of the Commonwealth address to urge bipartisan cooperation on a variety of politically sensitive issues, including taxes, guns, and the Equal Rights Amendment, and voting rights. How likely is he to get any compromise on these issues in an election year?
JS: Well of course the governor is trying to establish a very sharp contrast with what's going on or not in Washington DC. That shutdown, that partial shutdown is supposed to be, you know, what Virginia government is not about. The Virginia government is supposed to be solutions oriented. However, this is a pay day last day for thousands of federal employees in Virginia and other states, and that's going to inflict financial pain, not just on those workers, but the states in which they reside, and again, another reminder that Virginia's economy depends heavily on Washington largess, about 30 percent. This does not mean that things are coming to a grinding halt in Richmond, but we can expect at least the potential for standoff style politics on taxes in particular. The expanding economy and the Trump tax cut have generated a very big surplus, $1.2 billion dollars according to the Northam administration. The governor would like to spend a lot of that in an election year on programs important to his constituents. Chris Jones, Republican Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is saying, “Not so fast.” He wants changes in state law to ensure that Virginians are not penalized by this disparity between the state and federal tax laws. And until that wrinkle is resolved, Jones says it's really not clear how much play money will be available to the Northam administration and the legislature. So until that matter is settled and we have some general agreement on how much money is around, it could be that Chris Jones and Ralph Northam, bros last year on Medicaid expansion are anything but.
CC: And this morning on NPR we've been hearing stories about how federal, furloughed federal workers and those who are working but not collecting a paycheck are making ends meet. At the same time, at least one of Virginia's state Republican Congressmen, Denver Riggleman, and all of the Democratic newly elected representatives, including Abigail Spanberger, say they're going to work without a paycheck until the government reopens.
JS: As Doug Wilder would have said, “What would you have them do?” Spanberger and Wexton in their maiden speeches to the House of Representatives this week decried the shutdown, underscored the pain this is inflicting on their constituents, particularly those who were supposed to be collecting federal paychecks. Of course, Abigail Spanberger, representing the Richmond area, and herself a former federal employee, a CIA officer; Wexton representing northern Virginia. And of course, as the saying goes, when DC sneezes, its suburbs catch a cold. So this could have a greater impact in Virginia 10, Wexton's district, than say this end of Interstate 95. There’s a role in all of this too for our senators. Tim Kaine led that Democratic talkathon earlier this week talking about the impact of this shutdown, not just on services and people's personal pocket books, but the politics of the country. Mark Warner introduced legislation that would protect all those unpaid federal workers from bill collectors as long as Washington is dark.
CC: And we chatted briefly after the State of the Commonwealth broadcast on Wednesday. We talked about what Northam said, as well as what he didn't say. What did you not hear mentions of in this address?
JS: We didn't hear anything about an expansion of gambling, as we discussed over in the Rotunda. This is not just casinos, but expanded, but then expansion that would include sports betting. The two issues that one would have expected him to talk about that he didn't, that cut, directly cut to this election year - partisan redistricting, or shall we say, apolitical or nonpartisan or depoliticized redistricting and some form of campaign finance reform. Both of these are very important in terms of power, and no one is prepared, Democrat or Republican at this point, but certainly ahead of these important elections to unilaterally disarm, at least until we have a pretty good idea who's running, going to be running the legislature after the 2019 election. Of course, the Democrats need only two seats in both the House and the Senate to restore control of both chambers and take back the entire government, the first time in nearly 30 years.
CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again next week.
JS: Roger that.