This one perhaps should be carefully filed under ‘Strange Political Bedfellows’: Former Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman and a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell are confirming that the two will meet tomorrow afternoon to talk about the politics of historic tax credits.
Goldman, who’s been a frequent commenter on McDonnell’s recent potential legal troubles involving big gifts from a prominent Richmond businessman, also has been out again shilling his popular proposal to expand the federal historic tax credit program to allow those credits to apply to school renovations.
“The governor is meeting with Paul Goldman tomorrow,” confirms McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. “It’s a private meeting — it’s about the historic school tax credits that Paul Goldman has been pushing for a long time. We supported it in the 2009 campaign.”
Goldman’s idea has garnered widespread bipartisan support since he first introduced the idea in an article in Style Weekly in April 2007.
Goldman says McDonnell’s people contacted him over the weekend seeking the meeting.
“It’s probably the most bipartisan piece of legislation since the Constitution,” says Goldman, who’s not necessarily exaggerating. While there was plenty of disagreement among Virginia political leaders over the Constitution back in 1788, the same can hardly be said for Goldman’s historic tax credit plan.
Then U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) introduced federal legislation to change the tax code and allow localities to use the federal historic tax credit in 2011. Around the same time, Webb co-authored an op-ed for Politico with fellow Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) former Gov. George Allen and his ultimately victorious opponent for Webb’s seat, former Gov. Tim Kaine.
In a nutshell, the proposal seeks to change an arcane bit of the federal tax code that prohibits the use of federal historic tax credits — worth up to 20 percent of the cost of the project — for schools unless the use of the facility changes. In other words, the credits are available if the school is being converted to condominiums, but not if it’s going to continue as a public school.
State historic tax credits currently already are available for school renovation projects.
Together, those credits could be worth up to 45 percent of the cost of construction, which could equal millions in savings if applied to between 75 and 100 schools in the Richmond area that are eligible to receive the credits.
And while the recent attention by both McDonnell and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli might seem to tip the balance on the issue toward the Republicans right now, Martin says he thinks it’s unlikely that this issue is unlikely to get lost in the partisan weeds.
“I think this is an unique issue – both the candidates — Ken Cuccinelli and [Terry] McAuliffe support it,” he says. “It’s always had that sort of bipartisan support in Virginia. The problem has been always how do you get some movement in Washington — I think this is one of the rare issues that doesn’t get sucked into the partisan vortex.”
“It’s the best jobs plan anybody’s got,” says Goldman. “It’ll produce 50,000 jobs — all private sector jobs — plus it saves 40 percent on [school] construction that you can put into instruction.”
While he confirms the meeting, Goldman declined to go into detail on what details of the proposal he might discuss with McDonnell tomorrow.
Martin says the conversation’s broader topic is simply “what state leaders can do.”
With just four months left in McDonnell’s term, and under pressure with an ongoing federal probe into his family’s interactions with political donors, McDonnell has been tackling big-idea issues of late. Earlier this year, he initiated long-awaited changes to the state’s restoration of rights rules for non-violent convicted felons.
“The governor has a bully pulpit right now,” Martin says. “And this is an issue he cares about.” That duly noted, Martin says, “Paul Goldman is a creative guy and he may have some new ideas we haven’t thought of.”