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Wilder Wants Answers on $100 Million Taxpayer Loss Incurred by VCU Health Development Deal

Earlier this year, it was reported that VCU spent $73 million to back out of a development deal for the building of a new downtown facility with the City of Richmond. Later, it was reported that the financing could be $100 million more than the quoted cost and VCU received nothing for their money.

When asked if they agree or disagree that the VCU Health System Authority Board of Directors should be responsible for explaining more details about the deal to Virginia taxpayers, 92% of those familiar with the reports agreed and 5% disagreed, according to the latest Commonwealth Poll conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. Of those familiar, 65% agreed that these events indicate that information about the deal has been concealed and kept from the public.

“The poll results indicate the need for an official investigation by the state to explain why VCU spent 100 million dollars for nothing. The poll results show that the people have not had any explanation of the waste of taxpayer dollars,” said L. Douglas Wilder, the 66th governor of Virginia.

Finally, respondents were asked whether they think there was a cover up when former CEO of VCU Health, Art Kellermann, advised President Rao and VCU leadership that it was “a bad deal,” was forced to sign the contract, and then was subsequently fired. Of those familiar, around six in ten respondents agreed (65%).

“It is inconceivable why there has been no investigation by the state at this point when the facts speak for themselves,” Wilder said.


Youngkin approval

 Just over half of Virginians (54%) approve of how Gov. Glenn Youngkin is handling his job as governor of Virginia, with 31% reporting disapproval. Youngkin’s approval rating has improved 5 percentage points since the last Commonwealth Poll conducted in August 2023.

Youngkin’s job approval varies across key demographics. More than half of respondents from Northwestern Virginia (58%), Western Virginia (71%) and Tidewater (59%) approve of how Youngkin is handling his job, compared to 40% in Northern Virginia and 48% in South Central Virginia. Approval levels were also split by race, with 62% of white respondents, 47% of Asian respondents, and 36% of Black respondents saying that they approve.

Biden approval

Thirty-seven percent of Virginians say that they approve of Joe Biden’s handling of his job as President, with 54% disapproving. This is a two-point drop (down from 39%) compared to his approval rating in the August 2023 Commonwealth Poll.  The majority of Democrats (68%) said that they approved of the job he is doing, compared to only 9% of Republicans. Independents were fairly split with 30% approving and 37% disapproving. There is also a divide in approval based on race; 32% of white respondents approve of Biden’s performance compared to 58% of Black respondents.

2024 presidential election

If the election for president was being held today in Virginia and the candidates were Biden and Donald Trump, 43% of respondents indicated they would vote for Biden and 40% would vote for Trump; this mirrors the results from the August 2023 Commonwealth Poll. If the candidates were Biden and Ron DeSantis, Biden would still be slightly ahead with 42% of the voters, compared to 39% for DeSantis. For the last pairing, Biden and Nikki Haley, the split shifts with 43% of Virginians indicating they would vote for Haley while 38% would vote for Biden.

Most important issues

When asked what the most important recent for their voting was in the November 2023 election, Virginians cited women’s reproductive rights (21%) and education (19%) as their primary reasons.

Women’s reproductive rights were most important to Black Virginians (26%) while inflation and women’s reproductive rights were on equal footing for white Virginians (19%). Democrats favor women’s reproductive rights (39%) and education (25%) with Republicans placing the most importance on inflation (29%) and immigration (17%).

Respondents were also asked what the most important issue is for the Virginia General Assembly to focus on in 2024. The top three important issues according to Virginians are inflation (26%), education (20%), and women’s reproductive rights (17%). For Black Virginians, crime is the most important issue for the General Assembly to address whereas white and Asian Virginians prioritize inflation.

Youngkin’s proposed budget

Youngkin recently released a budget proposal for the commonwealth for the next two years that includes cutting the individual income tax in all four tax brackets. This would be paid in part by a 1% increase in the sales tax and the application of that sales tax to a range of digital sales such as music and streaming services, which are currently exempt.

Virginians are almost evenly split on the issue, with 43% agreeing with the proposal and 42% disagreeing. Virginia Republicans were more likely to agree with the proposal (56%) compared to Virginia Democrats (30%) and Independents (38%).

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University Public Affairs

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