Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said Wednesday that Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s spending priorities would total at least $14 billion over a four-year term and potentially translate into a $1,700 tax hike for the average Virginia family as the Republican tries to gather momentum for the stretch run of the governor’s race.
The analysis, billed in advance by the Cuccinelli campaign as an “important announcement,” was presented during a 15-minute address streamed live online. The calculations were derived from multiple sources, including Chmura Analytics, an economic forecasting firm, and the left-leaning Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a Richmond-based think tank, based on “promises” Mr. McAuliffe has outlined.
“He’s making them during this campaign, but he’s got no way to pay for them without taxes,” Mr. Cuccinelli said of the Democrat’s campaign pledges in the broadcast from Newport News. “Terry McAuliffe’s plan for Virginia will cost your family $1,700 per year.”
The latest tactic is an effort to exploit a perceived weakness in the McAuliffe campaign, which has consistently declined to elaborate on the cost of its spending priorities.
Mr. McAuliffe has said he would pay for his priorities through unspecified government efficiencies and a projected $500 million boon from expanding Virginia’s Medicaid program, the federal-state health care program for the elderly and poor, as part of President Obama’s health care overhaul.
But Mr. Cuccinelli countered by saying the General Assembly has ensured that savings from the program will be returned to health care and that new revenue from the expansion — which many Republicans are dead-set against — would amount to a fraction of Mr. McAuliffe’s projections, about $50 million to $60 million per year.
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Mr. McAuliffe said in a recent debate that if the money doesn’t materialize, neither will the spending for his priorities.
“If we don’t get the Medicaid expansion, we can’t bring in the efficiencies, then I agree with you,” he said. “There’s not money to be spent.”
To be sure, the analysis released by Mr. Cuccinelli makes assumptions about spending levels for some of Mr. McAuliffe’s plans that aren’t necessarily formed in full. The estimated tax increase assumes all of Mr. McAuliffe’s plans will be fully funded and not offset by cuts elsewhere.
The analysis includes estimates for things such as a stated desire by Mr. McAuliffe to more fully support funding for community college students. Mr. McAuliffe has noted a roughly $1,900 gap between in per-student state funding for community colleges in 2008 and now. Restoring the funds would cost the state $900 million over four years.
Funding for some other items Mr. McAuliffe has mentioned on the trail, such as tourism and workforce development, was not tallied because the Cuccinelli campaign said the proposals were unspecific.
The McAuliffe campaign did not specifically dispute any of the projections in the analysis, instead responding to the announcement Wednesday afternoon by attacking Mr. Cuccinelli for not supporting the $6 billion transportation package the General Assembly passed this year.
Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the campaign, later said in a statement that Mr. Cuccinelli “sunk to a new low today with his latest round of desperate and misleading attacks on Terry McAuliffe.”
“Cuccinelli’s ‘announcement’ included fabricated numbers and more of the same attacks on investing in transportation infrastructure that Virginians have seen from him for years,” Mr. Schwerin said.
The rollout Wednesday was accompanied by the release of a television ad highlighting the $1,700 figure and reprising Mr. Cuccinelli’s characterization of Mr. McAuliffe as an “unserious” candidate.
Mr. McAuliffe, meanwhile, has been releasing television advertisements of local businesspeople and workers, as well as Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, a Republican touting his candidacy.
Mr. Sessoms dismissed as “reckless” and untrue a statement Mr. Cuccinelli suggesting a possible “quid pro quo” related to Mr. Sessoms’ support of Mr. McAuliffe’s candidacy and the Democrat’s supporting a light-rail line to Norfolk.
“For him to insinuate something like that is infuriating,” Mr. Sessoms told the Virginian-Pilot.