Next week Virginians will go to the polls to elect a new governor, and the stakes are high. Currently, Virginia’s transportation system is an underfunded mess, and the state’s status as a national leader in higher-education is under threat. After reviewing the issues at stake, The Flat Hat has found that Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds will be the better choice as the candidate with the better plan to lead us through these uncertain times.
The criteria for our consideration and endorsement reflect our being a part of the community of the College of William and Mary. As such, higher education is our utmost concern. But, as we have found, both men are virtually indistinguishable here, so we considered social and fiscal issues in order to tip the balance.
On higher education, the two candidates both offer a wide range of shoot-for-the-moon proposals that neither can afford. They seem to agree that every dollar spent on education is a dollar well invested. To this end, both men promise to more than double the number of degrees Virginia’s institutions award over the next 10 to 15 years and to increase the percentage of Virginia residents who earn college degrees.
Deeds also promises to create a new rainy-day fund specifically for higher education that would grow in proportion to the general rainy-day fund. We agree such a fund is sorely needed because lawmakers generally cut funding during the bad times and then fail to return it once prosperity returns. Staving off the cuts in the first place could protect funding into the future.
But these are just campaign promises. Neither man has a convincing proposal for funding these proposals. Until an economic recovery makes them possible, we will call these proposals what they are: pipe dreams.
It is worth noting that earlier in the campaign Deeds flirted with supporting adjusting the ratio of in-state and out-of-state students in favor of admitting more Virginians into Virginia’s universities. Bob McDonnell, on the other hand, has been solidly for this point. While Deeds appears to have since refined his position, our eyebrows are still raised. It is absolutely imperative that this ratio either stays the same or inches toward parity; anything else will only further undermine the fiscal security of Virginia’s schools.
On transportation, Deeds has clearly articulated a sane policy for dealing with our largest problems, while McDonnell has left us asking for more. The most difficult problem that the next governor will face will be our massive deficit in transportation funding. Deeds has staked out some difficult political terrain by announcing his intention to raise taxes, while McDonnell has stubbornly and unrealistically insisted on a “no new tax” policy that, frankly, will not work. While Deeds’ position may ultimately keep him out of the Governor’s Mansion, it is at least more honest than McDonnell’s pandering.
The last straw is McDonnell’s regressive stances on social issues. Excluding from consideration his reactionary and offensive thesis — he was, after all, young when he wrote it — McDonnell has consistently voted against social equality and women’s rights in Virginia. While Deeds does not have a perfect record here, he at least opposed the constitutional ban on gay marriage and supports benefits for same-sex couples.
For these reasons and more, we encourage Virginia voters to support Creigh Deeds in this election. Virginia cannot abide another governor who will decimate vital state services like education and transportation to buy his way into office.