RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation Friday extending coal-related tax credits, sparking strong rebukes from Republican lawmakers who accused him of acting like a “big baby” and hurting the state’s suffering coal industry for petty political reasons.
Republican Sens. Bill Carrico and Ben Chafin, whose southwest Virginia districts include the hard-hit coal industry, said McAuliffe vetoed the legislation because they refused a make a deal. They said McAuliffe, a Democrat, wanted them to back his pick for to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court in exchange for the governor supporting the coal tax credits.
Carrico said in a Senate speech that he was offended by the “quid pro quo” offered by the governor.
“I say to the governor standing on this floor today: I will not bend; I will now bow; I will not break to his political corrupt ways,” Carrico said.
GOP Sen. Richard Stuart added that McAuliffe was acting like a “big baby” for vetoing the coal tax legislation.
McAuliffe vetoed similar legislation last year and said he did so again because the credits have been a costly failure, robbing the state of hundreds of millions of dollars that could be better used in other ways.
“I have to protect taxpayer dollars,” McAuliffe said.
The governor and Republicans have been at war for months over who should fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Republicans ultimately got their way Thursday, when they elected Court of Appeals Judge Stephen McCullough instead of the governor’s pick, former Justice Jane Marum Roush.
Democratic Sen. Dick Saslaw mocked Carrico and Chafin for not taking making a deal to get the tax credit extensions approved if they are so important for their home districts. Saslaw said Carrico and Chafin had put the needs of the Republican caucus over one of their top legislative priorities.
“A judge is more important to you than your own constituents,” Saslaw said. “It makes no sense at all.”
The legislation would extend coal-tax related credits, which are due to expire soon, for several years.
Coal companies and Republicans have said that without the tax credits, Virginia’s hard-hit coal industry will be in even worse shape and hundreds of jobs would be lost. Coal production has taken a steep decline in Virginia, partly due to inexpensive and abundant natural gas and tighter environmental rules.
Both chambers of the General Assembly approved the legislation by veto-proof margins, but McAuliffe also said he’s confident he has convinced enough Democrats in the Senate to change their minds and help him uphold his veto.
Lawmakers will reconvene in April to take up the governor’s veto.
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