Cuccinelli & McAuliffe Talk About Rural Issues

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's early still, but the two announced gubernatorial candidates have started campaigning. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli were both speakers at Local Government Day, an event hosted by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), on January 31, and available to answer questions regarding theit positions on supporting rural localities.

Executive Director of VACo James D. Campbell, said the speakers were chosen for that particular event because, “we thought we had an assembly of well over 400 local officials that are grassroots folks. We just thought the message would be appropriate for these guys as they start cranking up their campaigns…”

The Herald was able to ask both candidates two questions regarding their response to issues that had been raised by Cumberland elected officials during meetings over the last month.

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They were asked what they would do as governor to ensure rural localities would continue to have a voice in state government and what they would do to ensure education in rural localities is adequately funded.

Ken Cuccinelli

Cuccinelli, Republican gubernatorial candidate, focused on what is currently being done by the state and his past experience.

He pointed out, “I've worked with the Farm Bureau, for instance. I've been well connected out in the rural community. I served on the Ag Committee [Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee] in the senate for five years. And, learned an awful lot.”

Cuccinelli then went on to discuss his goal to make sure rural localities aren't overwhelmed by regulations, “As AG [Attorney General], frankly, a lot of what I do on the regulatory front is to preserve their ability to have freedom of action out there. So, I'll expand that…

“There are different things you do as governor. But I think I have demonstrated as Attorney General a commitment to the rural part of Virginia. I live in one!”

Cuccinelli commiserated with cuts in state funding of education, but pointed out that similar cuts have been experienced in other state departments, “My agency has got a smaller general fund budget…You know, I expect that strain is everywhere… And all we can do is preserve it as best we can, knowing very well how important an investment education is. So, that, that becomes a year-to-year situation…”

He pointed to the LCI, Local Composite Index, as something the State already does to try to maintain adequate funding for areas that are in greater need.

He also mentioned other means of making it easier on schools, “There are some things with retirement we can do to keep from overburdening them as well.”

Terry McAuliffe

McAuliffe, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, focused on economic development while discussing both rural localities and school funding.

Commenting on the historical significance of rural communities for the State, he said, “it would be a prime focus of mine to help those rural communities grow through economic development, bringing manufacturing back to work hard, because there are a lot of manufacturing facilities moving around the world. I'd like them to come here to Virginia and help our rural communities and do what we need to do and build upon our exports and our farms.”

He also mentioned his previous experience, concluding, “I'm all about economic development. We need a mainstream governor with pro-business ideas. I've been in business my whole life, been an entrepreneur my whole life. I want to bring some of those mainstream ideas to Virginia's governorship and not get us off on a social/ideological agenda which is not helpful to growing our economy here in Virginia.”

Later, while discussing schools, he said he felt a need for increased funding. “Clearly we need to increase funding for education. If you look at the statistics, I mean, we have dramatically cut back on our funding for education… If you want me as governor to go out and recruit and build business and bring business in, you got to have a top-shelf education program in all parts of Virginia,” he said.

He continued, “we need money there to grow, to keep our best teachers here. And if we lose the education and we're not funded on transportation, you really hamstrung a governor's ability to bring businesses from around the world.”

He also stressed the importance of community colleges and technical schools, saying he would be very involved in those areas as well.

For McAuliffe, it all came back to economic development. He concluded, “we are competing against 200 other nations. We're competing against 49 other states. So, we need healthcare, adequately provided. We need to make sure we have a great transportation system and a great education system. And with that, you can lure economic development and grow these rural communities.”