Column: Foregone Conclusion

Column: Foregone Conclusion

The Governor Glenn Youngkin administration has been releasing a series of reports that purport to show that what was promised in their political campaign is really what is needed in Virginia. While the approach is not unique in the political world, reports that do not match with reality undermine confidence in whether the largely new-to-Virginia-government Governor and his staff are willing to listen and learn before plunging the state into new directions that might prove unworkable and could undercut the very success that the Commonwealth has been enjoying.

Virginia has for years been recognized as the best state in the nation for business. Its public schools have been ranked among the best in the country. Its system of higher education is second to none. The state runs on a balanced budget with healthy reserves to protect against economic shifts.

Can improvements be made? No question about it, but proposals for improvement must be based on firm evidence of need. Political campaigns are filled with popular assertions that often do not match up to reality. The first task of a new governor is to match up the rhetoric of the political campaign with real-world evidence before moving forward. The current administration focus seems to be to cherry-pick information to support their speeches.

A prime example is the disastrous report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction that supposedly found within the first month of operation that there are “widespread” instances of “inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory and its progeny” in the schools. The response from educators I know has been to ask, what is she talking about? The response from superintendents through their state association has been to reject the findings and to ask why they were not at least consulted before such an off-base report was released. Hopefully the state Superintendent who is new to the Commonwealth will do a bit more meaningful research before issuing a report that has not received a passing grade from anyone except her boss.

More recently the Department of Environmental Quality released a report to prove that their boss, the Governor, was correct in saying that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would not cut emissions, would raise the cost of energy, and that the Governor was correct and the state should withdraw from it. The virtual newsletter Virginia Mercury (March 18, 2022) found that, “Multiple environmental groups and state energy policy experts, however, say the document’s conclusions are contradictory and fail to take into account how RGGI costs disincentivize the use of carbon-emitting units in the regional electric grid.” Noting the advantages of RGGI, one expert is quoted in the newsletter as saying that, “there’s a sense in which what this report does is it throws the baby out with the bathwater.”

Virginia has been part of RGGI for only a year. The ten other states that are part of RGGI have, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, realized carbon emissions declined by 59 percent between 2005 and 2020.

Governor Youngkin clearly had good campaign speechwriters. Now he clearly needs more experienced report writers and policy leaders to deal with the realities of Virginia’s needs.