Home Virginia Politics Ward Armstrong on Bob McDonnell’s Proposals: “We don’t spend money we don’t...

Ward Armstrong on Bob McDonnell’s Proposals: “We don’t spend money we don’t have.”

237
3
SHARE



The transcript of Virginia House of Delegates Minority Leader Ward Armstrong’s response to Gov. McDonnell’s State of the Commonwealth address is on the “flip.” The gist of it is that Democrats agree with several of Gov. McDonnell’s priorities – “funding for transportation, higher education and job creation” – but disagree on “how to pay for them.”  According to Del. Armstrong, Gov. McDonnell’s legislative agenda represents a “pretty big departure” from the “principles of responsible fiscal leadership and pay-as-you-go budgeting that earned Virginia a AAA bond-rating and a reputation as one of the best managed states in the country.” Armstrong adds: “We don’t spend money we don’t have. We don’t run up massive amounts of debt. We balance our budgets fairly and honestly.” Finally, on Gov. McDonnell’s ABC store privatization proposal(s), Del. Armstrong says that “most people don’t want more liquor stores in their neighborhood.”

So, there you have it: Virginia Democrats are vowing to stop Bob McDonnell from “running up debt to pay for expensive priorities.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out, whether Virginia Republicans will emulate their colleagues at the national level by “borrow and spend” policies that run up massive debt and mortgage our future, and whether Democrats will stand unified in stopping them. We’ll be watching…

I want to begin by offering my deepest condolences to the victims and the families who were affected by Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The thoughts and prayers of millions of Virginians and Americans are with the families of those killed and wounded as they cope with this heinous act.

If any good can come from this tragedy it’s this.  We should take this opportunity to examine how we deal with one another in political discussions.  Words matter.  And while it’s important to have vigorous debate on the issues facing our state and our country, tone is important.  

We need to be more civil to one another and avoid harshness.  I and my Democratic colleagues pledge to work to avoid the political rancor that has consumed Washington and the country these past few months and bring honor to a capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson and occupied by statesmen like Washington and Henry.

We can’t or won’t censor anyone’s first amendment rights to free speech.  But we need to remind ourselves that each of us, elected representatives and individual citizens alike, has a personal responsibility to maintain a level of public discourse that is respectful to people we disagree with and inclusive of different points of view.

The Governor’s speech tonight was filled with a number of priorities — funding for transportation, higher education and job creation. Those are goals that Virginia Democrats share.  Where we have serious differences is how to pay for them.

In 2010 voters from around the country, including here in Virginia, went to the polls with a very simple message for their government: watch your spending and stop mortgaging our future by spending more money than you are taking in.  Virginia Democrats heard you loud and clear.

I recall that Governor McDonnell campaigned for dozens of Republicans and Tea Party candidates who were running on that very message.  But while he talks a pretty good game about small government and cutting spending, his legislative agenda suggests that he has not gotten the point made in the last election when it comes to deficit spending.

Virginia has a long tradition of responsible financial management. We don’t spend money we don’t have. We don’t run up massive amounts of debt. We balance our budgets fairly and honestly.   For eight years Democratic governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine ran this Commonwealth using those principles of responsible fiscal leadership and pay-as-you-go budgeting that earned Virginia a AAA bond-rating and a reputation as one of the best managed states in the country.

The legislative agenda that the Governor outlined tonight is a pretty big departure from those principles.  Worse, it’s a real threat to Virginia’s long-term economic health. The governor has a long wish list of expensive items but no sound plan on how to pay for them. For example, he wants to take on over $3 billion in new debt to pay for transportation projects.  The end result could be that we wind up stacking more government debt on top of Virginia families at a time when many of them are having trouble paying their own bills.

We can’t afford to let the Governor put it all on the state’s credit card for future generations to pick up the tab.

That is at the heart of the philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans in Virginia. Our party is founded on the principles of economic growth, job creation, good education and expanding opportunity around the Commonwealth. But we also believe in sound financial management.

The Governor and Republicans may be comfortable running up debt to pay for expensive priorities, but I believe I speak for most Virginians when I say we don’t want to run Virginia’s government that way.  

This session Democrats are going to continue our fight for legislation that makes life better for Virginia families, without mortgaging the future. Over the next few weeks you’ll hear us talk about bills that will create jobs, keep the cost of important items like electricity and cable service low, improve our public schools and make communities across the state safer.

We are completely focused on the issues that matter to families across this Commonwealth.  Which is why we likely won’t support the governor’s plan to sell off the state’s ABC stores.  The problem with that plan is the state receives a lot of revenue from our ABC stores.  Privatizing them will cost the state money. That means funding cuts to schools and police.  

In addition, the governor wants to triple the number of liquor stores in the state.  We think most people don’t want more liquor stores in their neighborhood.

I’m proud of the proposals that members of our House and Senate caucuses have put forward.  I hope my Republican colleagues, particularly in the House of Delegates, will consider these proposals, not based on the political party of the legislator who introduced them but on the merits of the bills themselves.

Over the next 40 days or so Democrats and Republicans are going to have to work together on a lot of issues that are important to the future of our Commonwealth.   Governor McDonnell is my friend.  He and I both want Virginians to have good jobs.  We both want our kids to have a good education.  We want all Virginians to have a great quality of life.

Where we disagree is how to get there.  

So what to do.  Well we’re taught from our very first days in kindergarten that we have to get along with our neighbors.  We have to talk to one another and not just bicker back and forth in the newspaper or on TV.  

We have a lot of differences but we also agree on a lot as well.   Democrats have some serious concerns about the agenda that the Governor put forward tonight.  And while we’ll continue to make those concerns known, that doesn’t mean we aren’t open to working with Bob McDonnell and Republicans to find common ground and get things done.  

I really believe we can work together to find solutions to our problems, and do it without saddling taxpayers with too much debt.

So to the Governor and his party I say let’s find that common ground.  Work with us because we want to work with you.  Let’s create the jobs, improve the schools and build the roads… together.  The people of Virginia expect that – no — they demand it.

God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States of America.

  • Dan Sullivan

    They know how to say no to taxes, but not to spending. Delegate Purkey’s (R-82nd) Finance Committee is the least effective crew in the legislature.

  • cvllelaw

    I listened to Bob McDonnell’s address, and then to Ward Armstrong’s response, and I just wanted to ask:  “How do we expect to win on Democratic messages when we talk like Republicans?”

    Bob McDonnell gave Democrats a great opening when he talked about how borrowing money we don’t have now to spend on road projects now will be an economic stimulus tho make all of our lives better later.  That’s what the Obama stimulus was all about.  The Republicans have campaigned against the stimulus package by saying “government spending doesn’t create jobs,” and “putting a burden on future generations in the form of government debt will just stifle future economic growth.”  The Democratic defense of stimulus spending has been premised on Keynesian economics, not Club for Growth economics.

    But Ward Armstrong’s attack is a Club for Growth response, not a Keynesian response.  It was fundamentally wrong when John Boehner and Robert Hurt were saying it last year, and it is fundamentally wrong when Ward Armstrong says it this year.

    The genius of the Republican message over the past few years has been the persistence with which the lie has been uttered — over and over, when justified and when not justified.  I don’t know whether Ward Armstrong actually believes the Club for Growth attack, or whether he just believes that the voters of Virginia believe it so he wants to say something that they will be receptive to.  And I don’t know which would be worse.

    When Democrats talk like Republicans, many things happen — none of them good.

    1.  We reinforce the Republican theme, in this case that government cannot stimulate the economy.  

    2.  We make it hard for real Democrats to run on real Democratic messages.

    3.  We fail to distinguish ourselves from the Republicans, so voters make their decisions not on real issues that affect them (because they see no differences between the parties) but on socially divisive issues that don’t really affect them (Tom Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas hypothesis).  

    I would much rather a Democratic response have come like this — “We welcome Governor McDonnell’s recognition that government spending on infrastructure can stimulate the economy, that government spending on infrastructure can create jobs, that government spending on infrastructure can lead to economic recovery.  Democrats have long understood those realities.  And we agree that now — when the economy needs the stimulus, when interest rates are low, and when construction costs are low — is a good time to spend more on transportation infrastructure.  We wish that Governor McDonnell would have made those points last year, when his Republican colleagues were bashing President Obama for making the same argument, but — better late than never.  Welcome to the real world of real economics.  We haven’t seen the details yet, but if the details do what the government has talked about tonight, we’ll support him there.”

    Which gets me back to my earlier question — did Ward Armstrong say what he said about transportation debt because he believes that borrowing to pay for infrastructure improvements is wrong, or did he say it because he believes that Virginians will agree with him if he says it?

    Either way, it’s not good.