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PolitiFact Wrong Yet Again

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by Paul Goldman

Having been the one who wrote the fiscal plank to Mark Warner’s campaign platform – and provided the key fiscal stuff in the basic stump speech on the subject – it has been brought to my attention that Politifact is wrong again. Lowell has pointed it out before – as have I – they got it wrong on Democrats too.  No reason to repeat their stuff on that. Here at 200-proof politics, we don’t worry about which party is getting unfairly slammed, we just tell the truth and let everyone else sort it out. We like to try at least for this brief column to be like the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow.  However, to the extent we can stop this stuff from getting on the Internet, it will help everyone. All any Democrat should want this year is a fair fight. If you can’t win that one, then you should pack up the party and let some other people have a shot.

Politifact uses Warner’s fiscal position in the 2001 campaign to buttress their argument that Cuccinelli was wrong in saying Virginia had never gone a year without passing a budget. According to Politifact, Cuccinelli was wrong because the General Assembly didn’t pass a budget in 2001. So they labeled Cuccinelli as telling a lie, although they used a more socially acceptable term.

It is true that in 2001, we in the Warner campaign did use what the media called the budget deadlock that year between GOP Governor Gilmore and the anti-Gilmore Republicans in the State Senate, rooted in their disagreement over whether to fund the next phase of the car tax phase out. The Senators thought it would be fiscally irresponsible. So they refused to go along, and the GA adjourned without passing a “budget” according to the media at the time and PolitiFact today.

HOWEVER: That is not true. Yes, the Warner stump speech criticized the gridlock and the failure to come to an agreement. We talked about their budget failures but in careful terms.  It is also true that I made sure the Warner platform supported the full phase out of the car tax….although with a carefully nuanced *asterisk. But you say: “Paul, you were trying to have it both ways?” Duh! What do you think a successful political strategy does, provide a platform from Gandhi? Dude, this is politics, not a salt march to the sea. As long as you tell the truth, you can “spin” it anyway you like.

So, what do I mean about “however?” Very simple: Virginia is on a two-year budget cycle. Thus, when the 2001 fight between Gilmore and the State Senate took place at the 2000 Session of the General Assembly, the state of Virginia had a budget in place for ALL of 2001 and half of 2002 [we are on a July fiscal year, so the next budget wasn’t due to go into effect until July 1, 2002. Or put another way: Virginia had a budget in place through June 30, 2002 no matter what happened at the 2001 GA Session between the Governor and his party].

This is why the anti-Gilmore crowd in control of the Senate could afford to screw him and their party in the gov. election year!

Contrary to what the media was writing, at least most of them, and to what PolitiFact is claiming, the 2001 gridlock between the governor and the Senate was over AMENDMENTS TO THE EXISTING BUDGET. It is true that historically, there had never actually been a a failure to make “mid-course” corrections. This had always been done as a matter of course, expected really.

But unlike Washington, which is on a one-year budget cycle, Virginia passes a two-year budget. Accordingly, the state already had a budget in place during the whole alleged “budget” gridlock.” This was at all times a fight over amending the existing budget.

Again, that is why the two sides could afford to stalemate: it would not be a case of what happened with Gingrich vs. Clinton in 1995, when the federal government didn’t have a budget and they couldn’t agree on a continuing resolution [that is fund government operations for a short period until the budget was passed.]

Therefor: PolitiFact is wrong… AGAIN.

Some truth tellers they: I believe candidate Warner, Governor Warner, advisor Goldman, were very careful about being precise in our wording. We used the term budget and others correctly if you understood the law and the reality.

FACT: Virginia, at all times, had a budget in place, there was NEVER ANY TIME WHEN IT LACKED A BUDGET as that term is used in finance and the law. Remember: If Virginia actually lacked a budget, then how did the state pay its bills once the GA and the GUV left town with supposedly not having passed a “budget’? If that were true, state government could not longer pay its bills. Why? Because there would be no legal authority to write a check except for emergencies as defined. Why? Because there would have been no monies legally appropriated to do it except as otherwise defined or implied under the Governor’s emergency powers.

PolitiFact is simply wrong, to the extent (let’s give them an out) they are implying that the state of Virginia had no budget when the General Assembly and Governor Gilmore threw in the towel and accepted the state of gridlock. THERE WAS A BUDGET, THE ONE PASSED IN 2000. It was still good law.

They failed to pass amendments to the 2000 budget in 2001. Legally, that is not the same thing as failing to pass a budget. Yes, it was Washington style politics, just the Warner campaign said, just as I wrote, just as everyone understood. And yes, in political terms, it was fair, with the right wording, to say they didn’t pass a new budget as had been always done previously.

BUT POLITIFACT IS DEAD WRONG IN SAYING THE STATE DIDN’T HAVE A BUDGET.

So when, in the next coming months, they slam Terry and the Dem ticket for telling lies – which they will – now even Republicans will have to concede they should be giving their awards back and surely change the name to something more appropriate to their track record.