As I noted yesterday… there have been some pretty significant developments in the 2009 GOP horserace. Some McDonnell activists have posted here disputing that the VA Supreme Court rejection of a major element in the 2007 Transportation bill (unelected regional taxing authorities) is a blow to McDonnell’s standing. First, let me be clear. I have no dog in this fight as of yet but am really starting to tune in and basically using this blog to think out loud and evaluate the choice we conservatives face (and frankly we have two solid options—but at the end of the day we need to pull the lever for someone). That said, it’s a bit disingenuous for AG-backers to try to dismiss the issue by stating that both the LG and AG were for the flawed transportation package and thus were both wrong, etc. There is a huge difference in the two (particularly when it comes to the now recognized unconstitutional element of the plan). The AG, along with Congressman Davis, were pushing extremely hard for a compromise transportation package (and rightfully taking credit for doing so). McDonnell was publicly and unequivocally assuring uneasy legislators that the unconstitutional regional taxing authorities were constitutional. Case in point, see this July 12, 2007, article in the Examiner, which said:
Virginia’s attorney general reiterated his views Wednesday that legislation allowing Northern Virginiato raise much-needed revenue to relieve the region’s ghastly traffic problems is constitutional…
’s constitution does not spell out what the General Assembly can do,” Robert McDonnell said after addressing the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce in Herndon. In some limited cases it restricts the General Assembly’s legislative powers, but this is not one of those cases. Courts have upheld similar special tax districts. This is a little different, but we think it is similar enough.” Virginia
Meanwhile, Bolling was clearly not a fan of the package and not on board with the regional taxing authorities. See this New Dominion article, which quotes the LG saying:
“This wasn’t the way I would have done – it wasn’t the way I think it should have been done. In a perfect world, if I were in charge, and everybody did everything my way, that’s not the way we would have done it. But the reality is, given the current political dynamics in Richmond, that plan or something like it was about the only thing that you could build sufficient consensus around to get a bill passed”…
…“I can certainly understand if folks look at this bill and say, That’s not the way I think it should have been done. I can certainly understand that – that’s my feeling about it entirely,”
So, we clearly had the AG not only supporting the bill but also assuring folks regarding the constitutionality of certain elements, while the LG openly disagreed with the approach. That’s a world of difference that McDonnell’s team was more than willing to point out when the bill was popular. Thus, my change of tune comment following the AG’s statement clearly distancing himself from his own handiwork.
Making matters worse for team McDonnell, not only was the AG wrong about the constitutionality of the transportation package, but Bolling has been proven right regarding the high-profile constitutional issue he’s delved into as of late—his ruling on the shifting of lottery fund dollars within the Senate budget with only a slim majority vote rather than the required 4/5 vote. These developments paint a clear contrast of constitutional judgment that can only bolster Bolling’s chances heading into 2009.