Virginia's unemployment rate is the 2nd lowest of any major state today and the lowest it's ever been in nearly a decade. And while the work underway is continuous, Virginia is transforming, due to efforts in making it more open and welcoming to diversity. Outgoing Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia discusses how reinstating voting rights for former inmates and economic development efforts have positively impacted the state.
Interview recorded November 30, 2017.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: Virginia´s unemployment rate is the lowest in nearly a decade, now down to 3.6%. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. With me is Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who has the honor of being one of 2017 Governing magazine Public Officials of the Year. Governor, thank you very much for joining us.
McAuliffe: Great to be with you.
Traynham: And let me start off by saying congratulations. Many, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, unfortunately. Many Americans are feeling squeezed. They feel like they´re working more but they´re bringing home less. And so, as I mentioned a few moments ago, with the unemployment rate being so low, that is a good thing. Why?
McAuliffe: Because people are back to work. When I took office, unemployment was 5.4%. Virginia -- very unique. We´re the largest military recipient because of the largest naval base in the world, the Pentagon. 27 military installations. Sequestration hurt Virginia badly back in 2011 through ´13. When I ran for governor, I said, "We´re gonna diversify the economy." We are now the leaders in America -- cybersecurity, data -- data analytics, Unmanned systems. We have diversified our economy so much and created so many new jobs and economic investment that we are now structurally full employment. My challenge now as governor... is filling all these high-paying jobs that have opened today in Virginia. That´s why I put a billion dollars into K through 12, the largest investment in Virginia history. To build that workforce, great education system. If you want a job in Virginia, we got a high-paying job for you.
Traynham: Let me second this interview by saying, what are you the most proudest of? I mean, what do you think is your biggest sense of accomp-- And the reason why I say this is because, for those of you who are watching at home or perhaps maybe on your smart device, you may not know that Governor Terry McAuliffe is in the last final weeks, last month or so, of your administration. When you turn off the lights, what are you the most proudest of?
McAuliffe: I think building the new economy, diversifying the economy -- also, holding the record as the most vetoes of any governor in Virginia history. I vetoed very horrible anti-social, very divisive, anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-environment, and I was never overridden once. Virginia now is open and welcoming to everybody. We have lots of jobs. But my proudest moment will probably be -- I restored the rights of over 170,000 Virginians, felons. In 40 states, it was automatic. Virginia was not. And we had so many people who were disenfranchised. I have now brought them back in and treated them like first-class citizens instead of second-class citizens. And it´s heartwarming to see these individuals who, last election, said, "I voted for the first time in 60 years." Publics officials -- your job is to create economic activity and to help people. And that´s what I´m most proud of.
Traynham: Why do you think it took this long, Governor? In other words, for your predecessors not to do what you just did with respect to the voting rights for...
McAuliffe: Well, I did it through executive authority, ´cause they would never do it legislatively. They sued me, the Republicans. Took me to the Supreme Court in Virginia. I lost the first round. They said I didn´t have the authority, even though I clearly did. And then the Supreme Court finally sided with me. I think other people didn´t do it because it was gonna be a hard thing to do. You were going to get sued. But leadership is about leaning in on the things that you believe in, fighting for what your values are. You´re not always gonna win, but you got to be in that arena fighting, and it was worth the fight.