Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who is running for governor again, started his first day on the campaign trail this week by repeating the false claim that he “inherited the largest deficit” and turned it into a “gigantic surplus” while in office.
McAuliffe stated the falsehood Wednesday on MSNBC, the day after he easily secured the Democrat nomination for the state’s off-year governor’s race happening in November. He again posted the claim on social media Thursday:
I inherited the largest budget deficit in the history of the state from the Republicans.
In just four years, I turned it around and created a record number of jobs. I’ve led Virginia out of crisis before and I’m ready to do it again.
— Terry McAuliffe (@TerryMcAuliffe) June 10, 2021
The Virginia Democrat, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, made the same claim multiple times during his tenure, driving PolitiFact to fact-check him on three different occasions and rate the claim “mostly false,” “false,” and “false,” respectively.
PolitiFact identified three different inaccuracies in the various iterations of McAuliffe’s claim.
The first, that he inherited a deficit, is false because Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget, and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) therefore left McAuliffe in January 2014 with a balanced two-year outgoing budget that would end in June 2014 and a balanced two-year proposed budget that would begin in July 2014.
PolitiFact noted this and conceded only that McDonnell’s budget forecasting turned out — after McAuliffe took office — to be too optimistic and ultimately required McAuliffe’s reforecasting. The outlet cites two possible reasons for the after-the-fact shortfall: a volatile reaction to the capital gains tax increase and federal spending cuts’ impact on Northern Virginia. “But that’s hindsight and financial projections are tricky,” PolitiFact stated in defense of McDonnell’s forecasting.
The second, that McAuliffe not only inherited a “deficit” but a record-setting one, is also incorrect.
“Records show the state faced a far greater crisis at the start of 2010, when McDonnell was succeeding Democrat Tim Kaine as governor and Virginia began suffering the full effects of the Great Recession,” PolitiFact wrote in 2015. A McAuliffe spokesman told the outlet at the time that McAuliffe “misspoke” regarding the term “record,” which means McAuliffe is continuing to say he inherited the state’s “largest deficit” after admitting six years ago that this is untrue.
The third, that McAuliffe turned a “deficit” into a “surplus,” which he in the past has also described as a “record” surplus, is actually a matter of McAuliffe making pessimistic budget revisions in the face of a shortfall.
“The surplus does not mean there’s been a record turnaround in Virginia’s economy. It means that the revenue shortfall is turning out not to be as steep as projected in 2014,” PolitiFact wrote, also adding that the black bottom line “surplus” McAuliffe cites — when adjusted for inflation — is not in fact a Virginia record.
When asked by Breitbart News for McAuliffe’s justification for saying he inherited a “deficit” and calling it the state’s “largest deficit,” spokesperson Renzo Olivari said in a statement, “At the beginning of his time as governor, Terry McAuliffe faced a state budget prepared by his Republican predecessor that did not end up having enough revenue to cover the operating expenses. Not having enough revenues to cover expenses is the definition of a deficit.” Contrary to this statement, however, inheriting a deficit and encountering a shortfall after taking office are not the same.
Olivari did not speak to McAuliffe’s use of the word “largest” but added, “Thanks to Terry’s strong leadership, Virginia created 200,000 good-paying jobs, created 1,100 economic development projects, and increased personal income 14%,” and then — taking a shot at McAuliffe’s challenger, Republican Glenn Youngkin — said that while Youngkin “will deny hardworking Virginians a $15/hour minimum wage, Terry will fight to increase it by 2024.”
McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally and former Democratic National Committee chair, once warned during his time as chair while he was attacking Vice President Dick Cheney, “Someone who lies about the little things will lie about the big things too,” according to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article.
Republican Party of Virginia chair Rich Anderson said in a statement about McAuliffe’s latest mention of the false deficit claim, “If political insider Terry McAuliffe starts off the first day of the general election campaign by lying multiple times to Virginians, what lengths will he go to and what lies will he tell to get elected?”
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.