|Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli sat down for an interview with the Times-Mirror Oct. 7, during which he touched on the historic 2013 transportation bill. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko|
Attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli last week reiterated his belief that there wouldn't be the current transportation funding reform law if it weren't for him.
“There wouldn't be a transportation bill right now if I didn't save it as attorney general,” Cuccinelli said during an Oct. 7 interview with the Times-Mirror.
A quick consideration of the comment may draw suspicion. Cuccinelli bucked Republican leaders -- including Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling -- by denouncing the transportation bill near the end of the 2013 General Assembly session. The attorney general ripped the proposal for the tax hikes involved, and he recently said he doubts the new revenue will go far in relieving congestion.
However, Cuccinelli insists the bill would not have passed constitutional muster if it weren't for his amendments offered to the governor. He made similar remarks in late March after McDonnell made his amendments.
“It was nakedly unconstitutional. And I did my job as attorney general even though I didn't like the policy -- as much as you can say 'policy' in that bill,” Cuccinelli said last week.
A spokesman for the attorney general's office, Brian Gottstein, noted: “During [Cuccinelli's] review of the transportation bill while it was awaiting the governor’s signature, Attorney General Cuccinelli and his transportation and tax attorneys identified fatal constitutional flaws in the mechanism that imposed the regional taxes for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.”
Gottstein said the “actual advice given to the governor is attorney-client privileged,” but he pointed to Cuccinelli's official opinion on March 22 in which the attorney general “pointed out how HB 2313 (the transportation bill) as passed by the General Assembly violated the Virginia Constitution” and “provided a roadmap for how HB 2313 could be restructured” to ensure constitutionality.
Transportation is widely considered one of the top issues for voters in Northern Virginia, especially the region's business leaders.
A campaign spokesman for Cuccinelli's main gubernatorial challenger, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, said his candidate is the only one who consistently lobbied for the transportation bill's approval.
"Ken Cuccinelli tried to block the bipartisan transportation compromise at every step along the way because it did not adhere to his extreme Tea Party agenda,” Josh Schwerin, McAuliffe's press secretary, said. “Terry, on the other hand, fully supported the bipartisan compromise, and as Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling has said, Terry called a number of fellow Democrats and encouraged them to support the bill.”
Schwerin highlighted comments made by Bolling on News Channel 8's NewsTalk with Bruce Depuyt to prove his point.
“I give Mr. McAuliffe a lot of credit. When it was crunch time and we were trying to count votes to make sure we had 21 votes in the senate and 51 votes in the house and he was an ally,” the conservative Bolling said in an interview with Depuyt. “He was on the phone and he was calling Democratic lawmakers, encouraging them to support the compromise bill … we appreciated the help that he provided and he was of great support to us in the final days of that debate.”
Despite the attorney general's claim for credit on the historic legislation, Cuccinelli expressed little enthusiasm over the new law.
“I have yet to find a person who says, 'this was just a great transportation bill,'” Cuccinelli said. “The only defense of it is 'we needed something.'”