Nuckols on Kaine’s Tough First Year

The premise of Christina Nuckols’ story in the Virginian-Pilot this morning is that “[Gov. Timothy M.] Kaine’s freshman year has gotten off to a difficult start.” Few would disagree. The question is why. For Nuckols, Kaine’s problems are mainly about personal style and legislative tactics.

Kaine has only begun to seek out allies and nurture relationships in the Republican-controlled legislature. Legislators say Kaine’s leadership style bears little resemblance to that of his predecessor, fellow Democrat Mark Warner. … Some Republicans said the governor has failed to reach out to them and has alienated them with a blitz of campaign-style automated calls. …

Although Kaine aligned himself with state senators, who shared his desire to increase investment in transportation, they clashed over strategy at times. Senators, who included a gasoline tax increase in their own plan, resented Kaine’s public statements that a fuel levy was politically unwise.

Those observations are all true — yet they miss the point. Kaine and the Senate leadership share a very different vision for Virginia government than that of the House leadership. No amount of schmoozing on Kaine’s part could have papered that over. The fact was, Kaine was heading for a show-down with the House the day he announced his taxes-for-transportation plan, and he put himself at a severe disadvantage from the very beginning because it was a plan he’d never mentioned in his campaign and he could not by any remote stretch claim a mandate for it.

If Kaine continues pushing the taxes-for-transportation plan in the upcoming special session of the General Assembly, no amount of kissy-face is going to sway the GOP delegates. Kaine would be best advised to seek areas of common ground with the House — reforming VDOT, promoting public-private partnerships, reforming land use — declare victory and start preparing for the inevitable confrontation next year over his universal pre-K plan.

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3 responses to “Nuckols on Kaine’s Tough First Year”

  1. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Kaine might be in a stronger position had he not done a 180 on linking land use and transportation. He ran on what many NoVA voters of both parties was a sensible position — local governments should be able to postpone development in situations where the roads (and everything else) cannot handle more building. In other words, we cannot pave our way out of the whole we are in. That message played very well for Tim Kaine.

    But once he saw his shadow after becoming Governor, he ran away from his position on the issue that may well have secured his victory and immediately argued for raising taxes and continuing the failed transportation strategies of pouring more money into the dysfunctional VDOT as guided by the even more messed up CTB. “Oh now that I’m actually in office, maybe we can pave our way out of this mess.”

    Mark Warner at least tried spending cuts before he asked for higher taxes. That effort, which was consistent with his campaign bought Warner credibility with many voters even when they might not have otherwise favored tax increases.

    Kaine should have put up a better fight for some strengthening of land use controls. He could have gone to Chichester and said: “No land use legislation, no additional funding for transportation.” Such action would have put Kaine square in the middle and, in my opinion, a much stronger position vis a vis the GA. Even if he would have failed, Kaine would have established his credibility. But now, why would anyone believe Tim Kaine on transportation or land use issues? Any wounds are self inflicted.

  2. Insider Avatar

    I agree with both of you. If I didn’t hear it before November, don’t expect me to like it after November.

    That said, to not even call a member of the House Transportation committee to talk about transportation seems right at the top of the “how to lose a vote” list.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “Mark Warner at least tried spending cuts before he asked for higher taxes. That effort, which was consistent with his campaign bought Warner credibility with many voters even when they might not have otherwise favored tax increases.”

    Warner also walked into the governorship with the state’s financial situation worse than he had been led to suspect. Kaine, on the other hand, has been Lt. Governor for 4 years and dealt with this issue from day to day.

    Deena Flinchum

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