Gov. Terry McAuliffe was in Loudoun County on Sept. 10 and spoke with the Tribune about economic development, elections and transportation. McAuliffe. a Democrat, will complete his four-year term in December 2017.
What do you want to accomplish in the remainder of your term?
Clearly electorally, it’s getting Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine elected. Locally, it’s economic development, continuing to do that, continuing to try to close the coverage gap. Virginia has forfeited $7.9 billion (in funds for Medicaid expansion) as of today. That’s our tax dollars we’ve given back to Washington that we could have gotten back that’s gone forever. So trying to come up with a common sense compromise and work with the legislature to bring that Medicaid expansion money back in a way that protects the shareholders and brings that economic activity; as well as continue to grow the economy, work on the issues the attorney general and I work on, community policing, the opiate crisis we have today, childhood nutrition. We have a lot of big issues.
What are your most significant accomplishments, and challenges, when it comes to Virginia’s economy?
In the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve taken our unemployment from 5.4% to 3.7%, the steepest decline in 32 years. Also, the number of jobs created. But more importantly, we were vulnerable. Sequestration hurt us greatly in 2011 to 2013. We lost $9.8 billion and it’s scheduled to happen again a year from October. So that’s why we’re trying to, what we call, “Build the New Virginia Economy,” as well as diversify cyber and biolife sciences.
Is Virginia too dependent on federal spending?
We can’t be. That’s why we got into the problem we got into. For years and years we were the No. 1 recipient of federal defense dollars, No. 1 out of all 50 states. It’s great when they’re spending, but when they cut back because of the government shut down and sequestration, it really reverberates through our state. Most of the studies show the lost $9.8 billion equated to the loss of 115,000 jobs. And it could happen again even worse.
What do Democrats need to do to retain the three statewide offices in 2017?
Most important is good governance. I think that both of these folks [Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring] are running on a record. Look at what happened the last four years. We tried to work on issues, but despite the resistance we’ve gotten to grow the economy and renewable energy and other things, look at what this administration has been able to accomplish. You’re going to be able to run on your record.
How confident are you about Hillary Clinton winning the presidency and Democrats winning the Senate?
I’m very confident that Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton will win. We will have a United States senate seat, the only state in the United States of America that will have a senate seat up and I think the fate of the United State senate will come down to Virginia in 2017. If you look day-to-day, it could change, but right now [polls show] a 50-50 senate, with Kaine breaking ties, so it means the fate of the senate would come to Virginia. So that means next year is going to be busy.
Who would you appoint to fill Senator Kaine’s senate seat if Clinton wins?
I’ve told everybody, I know a lot of folks are interested, but I’m not telling anybody about it. We’ve got to win the election in front of us. I think people get the message. Don’t even talk to me about it. We’ll talk on Nov. 9. We have an election to win in front of us.
What does the Silver Line extension mean for Virginia?
What that Silver Line will mean for economic development means it’s going to be a huge economic driver for us. Look what it’s done at Tysons Corner. I’ve never seen so many cranes. And Loudoun will be the same way. We want to encourage people to use mass transit.
What are the other key transportation projects in Virginia?
I’ve worked hard on transportation. We’re fixing Interstate 66. We now have a deal inside the Beltway for the first time in 30 years. We’re doing work outside the Beltway, adding 18 miles of lanes on the express lanes on Interstate 95. We’re adding 18 miles of track for our passenger and freight routes. That Atlantic Gateway they announced the other day is the single biggest driver for our transportation. Think about it: 18 new miles of freight track, which will allow Amtrack now. The problem you have now, why it’s so difficult to move around the Commonwealth, if you come from Norfolk or you come from Roanoke, is that when it’s a freight line, and you have to go behind it, as they go over the long bridge into D.C., it backs up. We’re now building 18 miles of track so you can move the freight over. Now, when you get on Amtrack at a specified time you get off when you’re supposed to. And 18 miles of express lanes that we are adding to it. We took possession of the S Line from Richmond to Raleigh, N.C. to build higher speed rail. So really it’s transformative for the transportation of the area. Everything we ran for when we ran for office on transportation we have done. There’s not much else to do.
What is Loudoun’s role in the future of the Commonwealth?
Clearly it’s Loudoun when we talk about building cyber security, bio-life sciences, all the data analytics. We have more data centers in the state than any state in America. We have the second-most technology workers. A lot of that is based (in Loudoun County). I have a big announcement coming soon into cyber space from a country outside. When I’m able to talk about Loudoun and what’s going on here in Prince William and Fairfax County with the education, you have such an ability in Loudoun to bring those new businesses in. Loudoun is poised to take off with all these new 21st century technologies.