Youngkin administration reports ‘early conclusion’ based on campaign rhetoric

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Virginia
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Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration has released 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, mismatched reports are undermining confidence in whether the governor of Virginia’s largely new government and his staff are willing to listen and to learn before plunging the state into new directions that may prove unachievable and could undermine the very success enjoyed by the Commonwealth.

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

Can improvements be made? There is no doubt about it, but proposals for improvement must be based on solid evidence of need. Political campaigns are filled with popular assertions that often do not correspond to reality. A new governor’s first job is to match political campaign rhetoric with real-world evidence before moving forward. The administration’s current focus seems to be on selecting information to back up their speeches.

A prime example is the disastrous report from the Superintendent of Public Instruction who allegedly found in the first month of operation that there were “widespread” instances of “inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory and its offspring” in schools. The response from educators I know has been to ask what is she talking about? The response from superintendents through their state association was to reject the findings and ask why they weren’t 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 releasing a report that hasn’t received a passing grade from anyone but his boss.

More recently, the Department of Environmental Quality released a report to prove that its boss, the Governor, was right that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would not reduce emissions, would increase the cost of energy, and that the Governor was right. and the state must withdraw. The Virginia Mercury Virtual Bulletin (March 18, 2022) found that “several environmental groups and state energy policy experts say, however, that the paper’s findings are contradictory and fail to account for how RGGI costs are discouraging l use of carbon emitting units in the regional electricity grid. Noting the benefits of the RGGI, one expert is quoted in the newsletter as saying that, “there is a sense in which what this report does is throw the baby out with the bathwater. “

Virginia has only been with RGGI for a year. The ten other states that are part of the RGGI have, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, achieved that carbon emissions have decreased by 59% between 2005 and 2020.

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

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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