The mess in Washington just got local. Yesterday, Moody's announced that five states, Virginia among them, risked being downgraded from AAA bond status should the federal government not resolve the debt crisis in time.
Ironically, the bad news came on the same day that Virginia announced a $311 million surplus for FY 2011. Virginia started making tough - but necessary - decisions two years ago, and is reaping the benefits, yet federal dysfunction threatens to knock Virginia's excellent bond rating down a notch.
Given our proximity to the nation's capital and the large military presence in the Commonwealth, Virginia stands to lose disproportionately if the federal government cannot meet its obligations. But all states will suffer, given the reliance of state governments on federal dollars. It's a good argument for increased autonomy in state programs - one of many.
Virginians have a right to be angry. Here in the Commonwealth, we've worked hard to establish a secure financial footing. When the General Assembly mulled Governor McDonnell's proposal to issue transportation bonds, legislators and the Governor actually sat down with the ratings agencies to make sure that we would not be imperiling Virginia's AAA rating. Yet now it's in jeopardy thanks to the spendthrifts in Washington, D.C.
The downgrade is by no means certain, even if the federal government fails to get its act together by August 2. Virginia - one of the best-managed, most fiscally prudent states in the nation - has been placed on review because President Obama and his allies in Congress refuse to commit to necessary budget cuts. Virginia led the way in making difficult decisions and is emerging stronger. Now we just have to hope that President Obama doesn't drag us into a ditch of his own making.
Race in Focus: Patrick Forrest vs. Janet Howell
For many Virginia conservatives, Democratic Senator Janet Howell needs no introduction. I could tell you about all the bad votes she has taken-on taxes, transportation, energy, guns, abortion, you name it-but more significant are the votes she hasn't taken. The votes no one has taken thanks to her intervention.
As chair of the Senate Committee on Privileges & Elections, she has bottled up bill after bill, refusing to allow a committee vote - in clear violation of Senate Rules. The idea of a committee where bills go to die is not, unfortunately, new. But a committee whose members don't even get to hear the bills? That's something different altogether.
Voter identification. Charter school expansion. The right to work amendment. The transportation lockbox. These are just a few of the common sense proposals that never saw the light of day thanks to Senator Howell.
Patrick has the sort of biography other candidates can only dream of possessing. A VMI graduate, he serves as an officer in the Coast Guard Reserve, but that's only scratching the surface of a life of public service. He was lead counsel for the federal E-Verify program, recently returned from working with Bhutanese refugees in southeastern Nepal, and is an instructor at the George Washington University.
A committed conservative, Patrick will fight to keep taxes low, attract new businesses and jobs to Virginia, and increase the focus on improving our transportation infrastructure. You can count on his votes - and you can count on his insistence on actually taking votes.
Patrick is off to a good start, but defeating Janet Howell won't be easy. To do it, he'll need your support. I will be campaigning with Patrick next week, and look forward to continuing to support and assist him and other great conservative candidates across our Commonwealth. Your contribution will help a great deal on the path to a conservative majority in the Senate of Virginia. Won't you give today?