Down in the polls, Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli on Thursday launched his sharpest attacks of Virginia’s gubernatorial campaign, accusing Terry McAuliffe of being a liar and of lacking substance while the Democrat said the attorney general’s economic plan would wreck the state’s economy.
The candidates’ third and final debate covered little new ground but was marked by increasingly sharp exchanges, with Mr. Cuccinelli saying that being in favor of jobs and education is all well and good, but that talking is different from laying out a plan.
“They’re not plans. I like those, too. I like education — I like puppies. But I don’t bring a puppy home if I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to deal with that puppy,” he said to laughter from the crowd at the Squires Student Center at Virginia Tech. “He’s all puppy and no plan.”
Breaking from normal debate protocol, Mr. Cuccinelli at one point tried to put Mr. McAuliffe on the spot, yielding 30 seconds of his time and daring his opponent to name just one “government efficiency” he would use to pay for his priorities.
The question was a reference to Mr. McAuliffe’s oft-stated proposal to pay for new spending in part by saving money in areas that government could operate more efficiently. The Democrat has yet to identify an area or to put a price tag on his spending proposals, saying repeatedly that it would be irresponsible to undergo such a task before knowing how much money is available for him to spend.
“I’m not going to have a fictitious budget like Ken Cuccinelli,” he said.
Talking later about jobs, Mr. McAuliffe proposed two specific spending items — doubling the state’s research-and-development tax credit and expanding a tax credit for angel investors.
Mr. Cuccinelli said he can pay for his $1.4 billion tax plan by getting rid of about one-sixth of tax exemptions and credits in the state code and has proposed moving Medicaid funds not being used specifically on health care to boost mental health care spending.
“I’ve explained how I’m going to pay for my proposals,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.
A large part of the Democrat’s economic plan depends on Virginia’s approving the expansion of Medicaid — part of President Obama’s health care overhaul that could deliver coverage to up to 400,000 additional low-income Virginians and which Mr. McAuliffe says would save the state $500 million.
Mr. Cuccinelli said Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the elderly, poor and disabled should not be viewed as an opportunity to boost the state’s economy.
“Folks, it’s welfare. It’s not a jobs program,” he said. “You can’t make magic money out of the federal government that he’d like to.”
The botched rollout of major parts of the Affordable Care Act also presented the Republican with an opportunity to hammer Mr. McAuliffe for the Democrat’s supporting the law, and he tried to take advantage of it throughout the debate.
“I’ve spent my life fighting for Virginians,” Mr. Cuccinelli said in his closing statement. “Terry’s fought for Terry and his partisan pals. Like supporting Obamacare. Terry not only supported Obamacare, he didn’t think it went far enough. Can you imagine? Now he actually wants to expand the Obamacare failure in Virginia.”
Still, Mr. McAuliffe repeatedly derided Mr. Cuccinelli’s tax-cut proposal, likening it to riding into the debate on a unicorn — a line he recycled from last month’s debate hosted by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.