RUNNING OUT OF TIME: The governor has a few days to decide what to do with the budget before the government shuts down, but he’s found other things to occupy his time.
By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s time to sign a budget — and avoid a state government shutdown — is running shorter by the minute.
By law, the governor has a seven-day window to sign into law, reject or amend any budget passed by the General Assembly. Since the Legislature-passed budget that leaves no room for Medicaid expansion reached his desk Sunday, he has just a few more days to make a move.
The governor, however, has found other things to do with his time since Sunday.
Here are five things he’s spent time on since then:
1. Granting nearly $1.2 million to a company that was investigated by the feds and reported a $197 million loss in net income in the first quarter of 2014.
The governor proudly announced that Alcoa, Inc. — a global aluminum company that reported a $197 million loss in net income during the first quarter of 2014 — is receiving nearly $1.2 million to create 75 jobs in Hampton. Not only is the company losing money, but it was also investigated by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year, after the SEC claimed the company bribed government officials in Bahrain.
The company made a settlement deal with the feds by paying a $384 million fine.
2. Holding a reception to celebrate LGBT Pride Month.
McAuliffe held a classy reception to support the LGBT movement this week, and posted a picture on Twitter to document the occasion.
“Virginia must continue to be open and welcoming to all,” the tweet read.
The LGBT community continues to be supportive of McAuliffe, too.
3. Announcing a huge shipment of chicken to China.
China has finally lifted a seven-year ban on Virginia poultry, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.
China imposed a ban on Virginia poultry in 2007 after a single case of avian influenza was detected at a Virginia farm. Virginia agriculture officials expect to see about $20 million in poultry exports to China in the first full year of the newly opened market.
Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, according to the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center and the poultry industry is the largest individual sector of Virginia’s agriculture industry.
4. Announcing a new Chinese plant in Chesterfield County that may get lots of incentives from the state.
The China theme continued Wednesday, as McAuliffe’s office proudly announced that a Chinese manufacturer, Shandong Tranlin Paper Co., Ltd., will open a plant in Chesterfield County soon. The governor touted that the company is expected to create about 2,000 jobs and invest roughly $2 billion in the county.
Hidden in the details of the announcement, however, the governor’s office noted the company might get state incentives for the investment.
The governor’s office claims it’s the commonwealth’s largest-ever economic development project with China.
5. Announcing a lot more board appointments — to things like the Cemetery Board.
The governor makes about 900 appointments a year, according to the office of the secretary of the commonwealth, meaning the governor appoints people to obscure boards virtually every week.
Several board appointments included posts at the Cemetery Board and the Virginia Horse Industry Board.
The governor’s office — which has consistently failed to return calls and emails from Watchdog.org since last year — didn’t return Watchdog.org’s inquiry on a budget update.
— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @kathrynw5.