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Terry McAuliffe Makes His Case

A Q&A with gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.



Style Weekly submitted written questions to Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, who declined a sit-down interview. He provided these answers, which the we edited for stylistic reasons:

Style: Why are you visiting all of Virginia's community colleges?

McAuliffe: Virginia has this great network of community colleges, every Virginian is within an hour of one, and their work force development programs are a very important tool for our economy. At Tidewater Community College I went into a welding class where 10 of the 12 students had arrest records, and every one of them already had a job lined up at the shipyard. Community colleges are a great way to train a work force that will keep and attract businesses to Virginia. For me, we can work to improve on our strong work force development programs by ensuring that individual community colleges and individual campuses have the autonomy necessary to make smart decisions to ensure more resources are going directly to education.

As governor, I will also provide personal, direct leadership on linking our excellent community college leadership with businesses and industry leaders so we can collaboratively develop the best strategy for workforce development in the commonwealth."

How would you enhance other levels of education from K-12 and at the college level?

As governor, economic development will be my top priority, and without a strong workforce, you can't have a strong economy. For our youngest students, I will work to build on the successful pre-K program Governor Kaine initiated. In K-12 education we need to provide our educators with high levels of resources and then hold them accountable to high standards. We can reform the [Standards of Learning] to improve the information we're getting about student and teacher performance, and we can use innovative new ideas to give students, teachers, and parents more options.

Virginia's system of higher education is one of most important assets we have here in the sommonwealth, and we need to ensure that every student who gets accepted to one of our fantastic schools is able to attend. That's why my administration will emphasize financial aid at traditional four-year schools and I will be the strongest advocate of community colleges this commonwealth has seen in decades.

Should the University of Virginia be privatized? Should the Virginia Port Authority be privatized?

I don't think either should be privatized. When it comes to the port, I have stated consistently that it doesn't make sense from a business perspective to sell an asset that is appreciating for a variety of reasons. Our maritime industry does a great job and as governor I will do everything possible to make sure that our transportation and work force development systems are meeting their needs so that we maximize the potential of the Port of Virginia.

Should public university tuition be capped?

We need to ensure that there is enough financial aid for all those students who get accepted to attend, and we need to make sure that the state is holding up its end of the bargain and properly funding our colleges and universities. However, the things higher education institutions buy and pay for are increasing in price, and they need to be able to meet the increasing costs of providing a world-class education. While I support trying to keep the cost of higher education as low as possible, I don't think we should have a specific inflexible tuition rate.

What more can be done to recruit new business for Virginia? What types of business interest you?

With cuts in federal spending coming, we need to diversify the economy. In Hampton Roads federal spending is almost 50 percent of the economy, it's simply not a sustainable model. That's why we need to grow and attract new businesses with 21st-century jobs. I was at a incubator in Hampton a few days ago where they are helping entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. This is the future of our economy.

CNBC does rankings of the best states to do business and while Virginia always is near the top, one thing holding us back is being 33rd in transportation and infrastructure. That's why I think the passage of the bipartisan transportation compromise was so critical to our competitiveness – it is much easier for businesses to expand in Virginia if we can reduce gridlock and increase efficiency.

You have praised Gov. Robert McDonnell's transportation plan. What do you like about it? Wouldn't it have been simpler to raise the gasoline tax?

I applaud Governor McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bolling, and members of both parties in the assembly who got this done. By definition, any compromise is imperfect but the risk of inaction was a threat to Virginia's economic competitiveness. The key thing to focus on is that there is now a dedicated and sustainable funding source for transportation. That provides the certainty that our businesses and families need."

What about the $64 fee for alternative or hybrid cars?

In any compromise, both sides can find individual items that they disagree with but it shouldn't prevent us accomplishing a larger goal which is to pass a comprehensive transportation plan. As governor, I will certainly look at tweaks to the legislation and consider proposals from the General Assembly. My top priority is beginning to implement the compromise so that the new transportation funding is spent in the most efficient and effective manner."

What can be done to mitigate the impact of sequestration and federal budget changes involving a shift in military philosophy and focus? By this, I mean the possible transfer of aircraft carriers and other ships or forces to the Pacific now that the War on Terror is winding down.

No matter what happens with sequestration we're going to be facing cuts. That's why it's so important we start diversifying the economy. It's not sustainable to be so heavily reliant on federal spending. This is where transportation and work force development come in. We need a 21st-century work force and a strong transportation system to support new businesses, help existing businesses grow, and give companies a reason to move here. I believe that diversifying and growing Virginia's economy will be the central challenge of our next governor.

What is your opinion on using public money for abortions, having it included in health care exchanges to be set up next year or the new rules that change the regulations on abortion clinics?

We shouldn't have the government tell women that they can't spend their own money for comprehensive health care coverage.

What can be done to deal with carbon dioxide emissions and global warming? What role should Virginia play?

Virginia is the only state in the mid-Atlantic that doesn't have a renewable energy standard. This means that there is no incentive for alternative energy companies to come here. We need to change that to encourage these companies to come here; it will not only increase alternative energy usage but create jobs in the process. Unlike my opponent, I trust the scientific consensus that humans contribute to climate change and I will not ever use my power to intimidate scientists simply because I disagree with their conclusions.

Do you think Virginia should be helping to export natural gas as Dominion Resouces hopes to do?

Virginia should do all it can to support any business interested in moving goods to market. The proper role of government in the economy is to support industry and commerce by creating the conditions necessary for businesses to thrive. As long as they're being environmentally responsible and following the rules, I support all Virginia exports.

Are there limits to what public-private transportation deals can do to build roads and bridges? There has been criticism that they were meant as a supplement to road building and now they seem to be the preference of choice. What is your view?

Public private partnerships can be a great tool for improving our transportation system I think the hot lanes in Northern Virginia are a good example of how we can take some of the risk off the taxpayers. As governor, I will always consider whether a public-private partnership is a good deal for Virginia families and taxpayers before proceeding. But this is also why we needed to pass this historic transportation compromise. It will give us badly needed resources to make the improvements we've needed for decades.

Should alternative energy forms such as offshore wind enjoy public subsidies or tax breaks? How about loan guarantees for nuclear power?

Virginia should take advantage of as many responsible energy options as we can, and where you have new or developing industries, like wind power, we should help bring those industries into the market before allowing them to compete on their own. A recent study showed that, just using a portion of our offshore waters, we could install offshore wind power that would supply 10 percent of the commonwealth's energy needs while creating over 10,000 jobs. Expansion of clean energy jobs is a critical part of diversifying our economy.

Regarding nuclear power, Virginia already has nuclear plants here in state, and if one of them wanted to expand I'd need to take a look at that specific proposal.

Do you have any comment on The Washington Post's story regarding the involvement of the McDonnell family and Ken Cuccinelli with executives of Star Scientific?

I don't.

How do you answer critics who say you should have located your hybrid car plant in Virginia?

I always knew Republicans would try to attack my business record, but what I hear most from folks around Virginia is how am I going to help improve the economy. They want to know how we fix the extreme gridlock, and how we can get Richmond to focus on mainstream ideas and not divisive ideological battles.

How do you respond to criticism that you have little Virginia experience and have far more in Washington and with national fund-raising activities?

I've been living in Virginia for 21 years with my wife Dorothy, we've raised our five kids here, gone to the same church for all 21 years. I'm running for governor because like most Virginians, I want my kids to be able to get jobs here and raise their children here too. I strongly believe that my business experience and bipartisan approach can improve Virginia's economy and that is why I am running for governor.

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