McDonnell's VDOT pots of gold
Like a leprechaun, Robert F. McDonnell has found his pots of gold.
An audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation shows more than $1 billion in unspent money, allowing the Republican governor to crow about government mismanagement and toss some dirt the way of his predecessor, Timothy Kaine, who happens to be head of the national Democratic Party on the eve of important midterm elections.
In announcing the results of a 150-page audit by the Richmond accounting firm of Cherry, Bekaert and Holland, McDonnell bemoaned that the money was sitting around while average Virginians were sitting around in congested traffic. Kaine responded that squirreling away nearly six months worth of rainy-day money reflects prudence, not incompetence, on his part.
Therein lies a curious flip-flop in values.
McDonnell very much wants to position himself for future office as a tight-spending, ultra-frugal, anti-government politician. He came into office with a script, written by Republican governors in states such as Michigan, as a streamliner, reformer and privatizer. But the VDOT audit shows a few inconsistencies:
- If Kaine put away that much -- perhaps, too much -- money, doesn't that show that a Democrat can be frugal, too?
- If there are more than a billion unspent bucks in VDOT's budget, why is there such urgency in selling off the state's ABC stores, presumably to get desperately needed money for the state's roads?
- Where is the windfall going to go? It could be that it ends up as the state's cash portion for a big privatization project to build a new superhighway from Interstate 95 in Petersburg along U.S. 460 to Tidewater. That's McDonnell's pet project, but he needs state cash to make it work.
In any event, Kaine may draw criticism for being too frugal. That's a strange charge coming from a limited-government Republican.
Only nine months into his term, McDonnell has had his share of missteps, from offshore oil drilling to forgetting about slavery to being overshadowed by aggressive, hard-right attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli. He really wants to be seen as a reformer. Being inconsistent about his philosophy won't help him.
| September 24, 2010; 10:59 AM ET
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