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Deeds, McDonnell state positions on issues

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As they do every four years, Virginians will choose a new governor Nov. 3. Ours is the only state constitution that prohibits the chief executive from running for re-election.

Here are the positions on several issues of the two men running for governor: Creigh Deeds, a Democratic state senator, and Bob McDonnell, a Republican former attorney general.

Why vote for you?

DEEDS — My entire career has been focused on one goal: creating opportunity in all corners of Virginia. I'm proud of my 18-year legislative record, including passage of the Governor's Opportunity Fund, which has created or saved 79,000 jobs; Megan's Law to protect our children; and a progressive land conservation bill that has preserved more than 500,000 acres of green space.

My bipartisan record best prepares me to finally fix the legislative logjam and pass a statewide transportation bill. I am the only candidate for governor who has an honest transportation plan that protects funding for our schools and core priorities. I will continue to work in the tradition of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, by being realistic and honest about the problems we face and bringing people together with long-term solutions that move Virginia forward.

McDONNELL — The top issue in this campaign is jobs and the economy. I'm running for governor to help all Virginians get the good paying jobs they deserve. I'm running to be a jobs governor.

From the very start of this campaign I have laid out innovative ideas to help create those new jobs. We will do this by improving our schools, getting spending under control, increasing access and affordability at our great colleges and universities, and fixing our transportation system.

I will be a jobs governor. I would be honored to receive your vote on Nov. 3.

Transportation

DEEDS — He supports making major improvements to interstates throughout Virginia and favors expanding passenger and freight rail service, including building higher-speed passenger rail lines. He wants more investments in developing links to state ports. He supports giving tax credits when workers are allowed to work from home or have flexible hours to reduce traffic congestion. He wants stronger land use planning that steers urban growth to areas that already have transportation and municipal services.

Deeds promises to push for a new source of revenue to pay for projects but declines to say what he would support. He would consider any option for raising money except dipping into the state's general fund, which finances education and other programs. Any proposal, which would likely mean increasing taxes, tolls and/or fees, would be developed by a bipartisan panel. Deeds says he would set up the commission of political leaders and transportation experts Nov. 4 and charge it with coming up with a funding plan by "early next year." He wants a plan approved by the General Assembly in 2010.

McDONNELL — He said his priority list of transportation projects includes improving I-81 and building higher-speed passenger rail. He supports tax credits for businesses that allow employees to work from home. McDonnell said he wants to raise $17.5 billion over 10 years for transportation projects. He opposes any new taxes on the general public but acknowledges that tolls will be needed to pay for some projects.

His funding sources include establishing public-private partnerships for projects, $6 billion to $8 billion over 10 years; more quickly issuing approved bonds and issuing "congestion relief" bonds, $3 billion; tapping future growth in state revenue from ports, $2 billion; setting aside a portion of new state revenues for transportation, $1.5 billion; using proposed revenue from offshore-drilling royalties and taxes, $1.06 billion; setting aside 0.3 percent of sales taxes in Northern Virginia for local projects, $1 billion; using 75 percent of any surplus state funds, $860 million; starting tolls on interstates 95 and 85 at North Carolina border, $500 million; selling state-run liquor stores to private owners, $500 million; and auditing Virginia Department of Transportation to find ways to save money, $50 million.

Several parts of his plan hinge on approval by officials and agencies — some outside the governor's control. Efforts to sell state liquor stores, for example, have previously failed in the General Assembly. If oil drilling were allowed off Virginia's coast, Congress would decide whether Virginia could keep part of the profits.

Jobs & the Economy

DEEDS — He said the best way to revive the state's economy is to adopt a statewide transportation plan to upgrade roads and to develop more mass transit. He said it would generate new jobs with the projects, open new markets and make commerce flow more smoothly. He also proposes to seek tax breaks for all businesses that create jobs. In exchange for hiring workers, a business owner could get a refund from the state for federal payroll taxes, he said.

He wants the Governor's Opportunity Fund, which provides grants to companies creating jobs in Virginia, to be doubled to $20 million.

Deeds said he wants to provide more grant money for students who graduate from community colleges in high-income fields in science, math, technology and engineering and then continue on to get a degree from a four-year college. He wants to entice more people to consider health care careers in needy parts of the state by offering grants and forgiveness of school loans.

McDONNELL — He said the "heart and soul" of his campaign is unshackling business from too much regulation and taxation. He would seek a tax credit of $1,000 per job for any business that creates 50 or more jobs. He proposes that businesses in "economically depressed" parts of Virginia earn the per-job credit for 25 or more jobs. He wants to help small businesses by putting state forms and other paperwork online and fast-tracking the permitting process. He would allow out-of-state businesses in good standing to get temporary licenses to set up shop while waiting for official approval. He also wants to boost the state's spending for promoting tourism and film production. He wants the Governor's Opportunity Fund, which provides grants to companies creating jobs in Virginia, to be doubled to $20 million.

He wants the state to commit to awarding 100,000 more four-year and community college degrees in the next 15 years to bolster the intellectual strength of the state's workforce. He said Virginia needs to graduate more students with degrees in high-income occupations in science, technology, engineering and math.

His endorsements include the National Federation of Independent Business.

Education

DEEDS — He said $300 million can be found to raise teacher salaries and support other classroom expenses by having more school systems conduct state "efficiency audits." Only one in four has conducted such an audit, he said.

Deeds also wants to attract more teachers specializing in math, science, technology or engineering by offering to pay their college loans in exchange for teaching those disciplines. He also wants to forgive loans for teachers who commit to teaching in "hard-to-staff" schools.

He said he favors increasing the number of charter schools but wants local school boards, not state officials, to keep control of approving them.

He wants to expand Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's early childhood education initiative to add 20,000 students over four years by enrolling more 4-year-olds from low-income families. He said that can be done through public-private partnerships.

He proposes to establish a "Virginia Forward" scholarship program that would pay half the in-state college tuition of high school graduates who have a B average and commit to two years of Virginia public service after college. He said it's aimed at training more teachers, medical professionals and public safety workers. He said he would pay for the program, which would cost $40 million by its fourth year, by selling state surplus land and redirecting state debt collection to a special trust fund.

He has been endorsed by the Virginia Education Association.

McDONNELL — He proposes a "65 percent solution" for providing more money for classrooms by having public schools spend less money on administrative functions and more on instruction. Most public schools now spend about 61 percent of all educational spending on classroom activities, he estimated. If that percentage were increased to 65 percent, McDonnell said, an extra $480 million would be available for higher teacher salaries. Research shows that school systems that spend at least 65 percent of their money directly on classrooms tend to have students who perform better on math, English and science proficiency exams, he said. It's not clear whether he can force local school boards to enact that change. He also wants to tie teachers' pay to their performance in the classroom, calling it "fundamentally good management."

He would push for more charter schools and wants to counter local school board resistance by changing rules so that the State Board of Education also can approve them. He would set up a state advisory board to assist in setting up more charter schools. He wants more charter or specialized high schools that prepare students for high-demand occupations in health care, engineering and teaching.

He favors giving income tax credits to defray the cost of instructional fees, private school tuition and home schooling.

He has been supportive of programs to improve early reading skills, especially for at-risk children, but has not specified whether pre-kindergarten programs should be expanded.

Taxes & Spending

DEEDS — He is not proposing any specific tax increases, but said a new source of money has to be found to pay for billions of dollars in transportation projects. He wants to pass a plan in 2010. If a bipartisan road plan that includes tax, fee or toll increases is approved by the General Assembly, Deeds said, he will sign it.

He wants to change the way the state budget is crafted to use zero-based budgeting. Instead of drafting the budget based on the past year's document, he wants to build it from scratch, forcing state officials to justify almost every item. He also wants to conduct "regular efficiency reviews" of state agencies to look for waste. He proposes to cut state government's $300-million-plus energy bill by 20 percent within four years. He wants energy performance audits of state buildings and agencies. He wants to gradually switch state vehicles to hybrids or other more efficient vehicles. He wants to expand the state's bulk purchase of goods to include drugs for state facilities.

McDONNELL — He said he would ferret out unnecessary spending and improve core government services. He said the top priorities of state government spending need to be economic development, education, public safety and transportation. He said he wouldn't support any tax increases in the general public. H is transportation plan calls for new tolls on part of Interstates 95 and 85. His plan would set up public-private partnerships with for-profit firms to build major transportation projects, such as converting U.S. 460 to interstate quality. Those projects would require tolls or possibly tax districts to pay back the investors.

He said he wants more independent audits of state agencies to look for wasteful spending, starting with the Department of Transportation. Any excessive funds can be used elsewhere, he said.

Environment & Energy

DEEDS — He is the choice of environmentalists and progressives who want more attention and action on protecting things green and who favor a faster shift away from fossil fuels. He is endorsed by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. He has sponsored land-conservation initiatives, authored a law to punish farmers caught polluting, and helped to create a state fund for cleaning up abandoned landfills that leak toxic wastes. Deeds has said global warming is a serious problem but does not favor the federal cap-and-trade plan pending in Congress as drafted. Deeds said he "remains open" to offshore drilling for gas and oil if done safely without damage to the environment and without interruption of military training and commercial fishing.

He could support more nuclear energy, he says, "provided we first address all issues critical to safety, including national security, disposal and the safe operation of any plant." He says Virginia's energy portfolio must include coal and gas extraction as well as coal-fired power plants.

Deeds said he would encourage alternative energy projects and wants to create more green jobs. For example, he supports a mandatory renewable-energy portfolio for utilities of 15 percent by 2020 and 22 percent by 2025. He would invest in the development of three biomass facilities, including a plant in coastal Virginia that would convert algae into biodiesel fuel.

McDONNELL — He is the clear champion of business and industry interests, who favor a slower, more deliberate transition to alternative energy and who want fewer environmental rules, which they say often complicate economic development with higher costs and hassles. He has backed tax incentives that promote land conservation. He has pledged to increase those incentives as part of a larger promise to protect 400,000 acres of undeveloped property.

He has been endorsed by several business groups, including the Virginia Association of Realtors. He receives generous contributions from developers and oil, gas and electric companies, as well as Smithfield Foods, the meat-packing giant, and its director Joe Luter.

He has said the congressional cap-and-trade proposal to address climate change is "a horrible new energy tax."

He supports drilling for oil and natural gas at least 50 miles off Virginia Beach, expanding nuclear power and exploiting the state's "incredible natural resources" such as coal and natural gas.

He said he would encourage alternative energy. He wants the entire state to be a "Green Jobs Zone" and would offer tax incentives to companies that create alternative-energy jobs. He wants to give qualified businesses an income tax credit of $2,500 over five years for every such job created.

He promises to expedite permitting of new energy facilities and to seek federal stimulus money for clean-energy research, including funds to advance technology that would sequester carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Gun Laws

DEEDS — He has been a strong supporter of gun rights. He was chief sponsor of a state constitutional amendment stating that people have the right to "hunt, fish and harvest game." He voted repeatedly to stop local governments from enforcing gun laws more restrictive than the state's, including proposed bans at community centers and parks. He voted to limit government lawsuits against gun manufacturers and against firearm bans on school campuses. He opposed a 1993 state law that limits gun purchases to one a month. However, he changed his view on one gun law in response to the grieving parents of students killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. He supported a bill to close the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows firearms purchasers to avoid background checks if they buy weapons from private sellers at gun shows. The National Rifle Association endorsed him instead of McDonnell in the 2005 attorney general campaign, but switched sides this year after Deeds supported the loophole bill.

McDONNELL — He has been a strong supporter of gun rights. He voted repeatedly to stop localities from enforcing gun laws more restrictive than the state's, including proposed bans at community centers and parks. He voted to limit government lawsuits against gun manufacturers and opposed firearm bans on school campuses. He opposes closing the so-called gun show loophole.

He supported the 1993 law limiting gun purchases to one a month but now says he'll work to repeal it if elected. When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he sent private investigators with hidden cameras to Virginia and other states to check enforcement of gun sale laws, McDonnell — then attorney general — warned the mayor that if he did it again, he could be charged with a felony for using tactics that are illegal in Virginia. He is endorsed this year by the National Rifle Association.

Health Care

DEEDS — He supports the creation of basic health care plans in Virginia that don't offer coverage for all services now mandated by state law, — plans that businesses with fewer than 50 employees could offer workers. Deeds has proposed expanding the state insurance coverage of low-income pregnant women, children and the unemployed. He has recommended offering loans to temporarily unemployed workers to cover the costs of COBRA insurance. Deeds also would provide small businesses a $1,000-per-employee tax credit if they pay at least 50 percent of their employees' health premiums. He supports prohibiting insurers from denying care for pre-existing conditions and mandating that insurers cannot retroactively cancel policies when patients aren't at fault.

McDONNELL — He supports the creation of basic health care plans in Virginia that don't offer coverage for all services now mandated by state law — plans that businesses with fewer than 50 employees could offer workers. He emphasized examining Medicaid for cost savings, including re-examining payment rates and eligibility for enrollment, but acknowledged Virginia already has among the toughest standards. He proposes encouraging the use of health savings accounts and raising the cap on how much can be contributed tax-free each year. He also proposes increased funding to community health centers and free clinics and maintaining Virginia's $2 million cap on malpractice verdicts. To encourage residents to buy long-term care insurance, he proposes doubling a tax credit of 15 percent of premium costs.

Abortion

DEEDS — He favors the right to an abortion but has approved restrictions. He has supported bills that required parents to be notified if their child is seeking an abortion but not measures that required parental consent or a waiting period. He voted for a ban on the form of late-term abortion often called partial-birth abortion but changed his mind because he said he worried that the bills were unconstitutional. He voted to allow pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception — the "morning-after pill."

McDONNELL — He opposes abortion. He supported bills that banned the form of late-term abortion often called partial-birth abortion, required minors to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion and mandated a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking one. He wants to strengthen informed-consent laws that require abortion providers to tell a woman about the procedure and other options. He wants to more strongly promote adoption as an alternative.

Gay Rights

DEEDS — He voted to exclude sexual orientation from a list of hate crimes. He voted against recognizing same-sex marriages and for a measure urging Congress to propose a constitutional amendment describing marriage as between a man and a woman. However, Deeds changed his votes on those measures when both were amended in their final versions. He voted to put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment prohibiting civil unions and same-sex marriage, saying it codified laws banning same-sex marriage. However, he later expressed regret, saying the language was discriminatory, and said that when the issue came before the public for a vote, he had voted against the amendment. Deeds said he would keep intact an executive order issued by Govs. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark Warner that bans discrimination against gay applicants for state government jobs.

McDONNELL — He said marriage should be only between a man and a woman. He voted to exclude sexual orientation from a list of hate crimes. He voted against recognizing same-sex marriages and for a measure urging Congress to propose a constitutional amendment describing marriage as between a man and a woman. He also voted to put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment prohibiting civil unions and same-sex marriage. He said he would not renew an executive order issued by Govs. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark Warner that bans discrimination against gay applicants for state government jobs. McDonnell, while attorney general in 2006, issued an opinion that the order was unconstitutional.

Restoring civil rights to felons

DEEDS — He supports restoring the voting rights and other civil rights of nonviolent felons after they have completed their sentence and probation. Deeds has supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore rights after a convicted felon completes his or her punishment. Under current Virginia law, individuals convicted of a felony lose voting rights for life. The governor has the discretionary power to restore all citizenship rights, except for the right to possess a firearm. Deeds has said he would continue the accelerated review of applications for voting right restoration that was used by Govs. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark Warner.

McDONNELL — He said he wants to speed up the review of felon-rights restoration cases so a person can get an answer from the governor in about 90 days. He opposes changing the state Constitution to automatically restore a felon's rights. "I think you have to decide based on the individual whether they should be restored to society," he said. McDonnell said he would issue clear guidelines for people to follow after they complete their criminal sentence. The criteria to restore rights include "things like staying on the straight and narrow, having a job, staying away from crime... and giving back to the community," he said.

Cell phones & driving

DEEDS — He supports banning the use of cell phones while driving unless the driver is using a headset or hands-free phone. Cell phones also could be used in an emergency, he said.

McDONNELL — He opposes banning cell phones while driving. He said there are laws punishing reckless or aggressive driving that already cover a range of conduct, including improper use of a phone. "I certainly think it's reasonably possible to operate a cell phone and talk while still concentrating on the road," he said.

Sources: Virginian-Pilot staff reports, The Washington Post, The Roanoke Times, Project Vote Smart and the candidates' Web sites.