Steve brings a proven record of problem-solving and innovative leadership to the fight for Virginia's future. Open-minded and non-parochial, he listens to fellow residents and solicits ideas and input from citizens, the business community, professional organizations, labor groups, and technical specialists. He's the kind of leader we need to help build a better and more prosperous Virginia.
I don't pretend to have all the answers, or a monopoly on good ideas. But I have a set of policy and legislative priorities that I will continue to champion in the interests of Virginia and its residents:
Among government's top responsibilities is to be a good steward of the people's money and to focus public investment on sectors that yield the most benefit for the most people. Government shouldn't try to run people's lives or solve every conceivable problem. Instead we should focus our finite resources on things (like the issue areas below) that will generate real benefit and help to unleash the vast creative talent and economic potential of our people, our businesses and our academic and scientific-technical communities. I believe that families know how to invest and spend their money better than government does, so we should limit the growth of government spending and instead put more money back in the hands of people, and the businesses that create new and better jobs and grow our economy for the benefit of all Virginians.
I think it speaks volumes that, when it became clear that inaction by the General Assembly relative to conformity of the state's tax code with the recently revised federal tax laws would result in a multibillion-dollar revenue windfall -- effectively a massive tax increase on Virginia's families -- the first impulse of the Northam administration and the Democratic caucus in the General Assembly was to spend it all. Instead, I proposed that any such revenue windfall be returned to the taxpayers who paid that money in the first place -- allowing them to save, invest or spend it in whatever combination makes the most sense for each of them. We should be looking for more ways to promote economic growth, investment and job creation by taxing less, not spending more. Happily, the Republican majority at that time passed tax relief, but now our governor's budget proposes that the continued growth in Virginia tax collection because of the amended federal tax code will be spent rather than returned to the taxpayers. I'm committed to fighting such efforts to impose new or increased taxes on Virginia's families and businesses.
Economic growth in Virginia hasn't neared peak potential for some time. We've slipped or fluctuated in annual rankings of the most business-friendly states and -- make no mistake -- we compete directly with other states for business investment, job creation, and the most innovative new companies and brightest human minds. We need to remove excessive red tape and regulations that are stifling the creation of vibrant new businesses and inhibiting the growth of established enterprises.
Eliminating excessive business fees, lowering taxes, and creating incentives for businesses of all kinds -- including agricultural as well as industrial and high-tech -- to set up in Virginia and stay in Virginia will expand job creation and give all Virginians more opportunities to find well-paying jobs with attractive benefits. Rather than fearing global economic interrelationships, Virginia should be at the forefront of exploiting them, and continually expanding both its export markets and its ability to attract foreign investment.
Too often, we underestimate the effects of chronic transportation congestion on our economy, our environment and our quality of life. We waste fuel, we pollute our air, and we compromise our quality of life: We lose valuable time behind the wheel or stuck in traffic even on mass transit systems -- time in which we otherwise could be productively engaged or with our families. We have some of the worst traffic in the country. Our mass transit options are expensive, offer few attractive "feeder routes" from outlying areas like our district, and frequently deliver poor customer comfort (Some of the busiest Metro stations on the Red Line repeatedly go through summers with air conditioning systems that are essentially inoperative). We can and must do better.
Virginia should be an innovator in this area. Yes, we need additional and wider roads, and better maintained roads, in our region. But pavement alone is not the answer. We should be exploring new ideas like public-private partnerships for creating accessible telework centers, and for additional Express Lanes. In a global economy linked by modern telecommunications, many businesses should be able to accommodate, and indeed benefit from, innovative staffing solutions and workforce management techniques. Rather than expanding very expensive "heavy" rail systems that require a dedicated right-of-way, we should develop new and efficient bus rapid transit systems. We should invest in promising technologies, bringing to bear the talent of Virginia's universities and high-tech sector, so that we can put emission-free electric buses and other transit vehicles on existing roadways, while offering superior comfort and convenience (Wi-Fi access, reliable climate control, platform loading, and more). Virginia is blessed with abundant technical, engineering and business expertise. Let's put that talent to work for the good of all Virginians, and not be afraid to dream big.
There they go again. After Richmond Democrats made Virginia an object of national ridicule and scorn by introducing legislation that would have legalized abortion on demand up to the moment of birth; eliminating all forms of informed consent and protections against coercion; and even eliminating parental consent, they're at it again. Legislation filed for the 2020 legislative session again would make abortion legal up to the moment of birth, with only the consent of the abortionist. Other bills propose eliminating all informed and even parental consent. Still other bills propose making abortion a "constitutional right" -- and as such a right capable of being exercised at any time (again up to the moment of birth) for any reason or no reason at all.
Abortion remains a controversial topic in Virginia, but late term abortion without parental or informed consent, and with the concurrence of only one physician (the abortionist), is not -- indeed it is almost universally reviled. By any objective standard, this sort of extreme, Orwellian social and political policy is appalling and has no place in Virginia. We routinely and appropriately charge those who murder a woman who is late in her pregnancy with an additional count of infanticide. Why should it be legal to do the same thing in a clinical setting, and solely on the grounds of undefined "mental impairment"?
Virginia can't do things like be an innovation leader in transportation, or information technology, or advanced telecommunications, or other sectors in the vanguard of economic growth if we do not develop and attract, and then maintain, a highly skilled and dynamic workforce. We cannot expect our children to thrive in the 21st century economy if we do not provide them all with an array of quality educational offerings.
While many decisions concerning education are made at the local level by elected school boards, state government has an important role to play. Virginia needs a sound education strategy and a uniform commitment to focusing effort and resources on the classroom and the skills that children need to have. We should create mechanisms that make it easier for teachers, parents and communities to work together to achieve desired outcomes. We can do more to harness the power and creativity of the business community and our premier universities to help fix failing schools and afford the opportunity for a high-quality education to all of Virginia's children. Too often I hear from primary and early education teachers that we aren't doing enough for special education students, or those who would benefit from an educational "track" that would prepare them for working in a worthwhile trade.
While I believe that standardized tests serve a useful purpose -- giving us common yardsticks with which to measure proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics and so on state-wide -- we don't need to make them an end in themselves. We should give teachers more flexibility in how they teach, while ensuring that our curricula provide more attention to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) without giving short shrift to our great country's (and the world's) history and literature or to foreign languages, the arts, or vocational and technical training.
Given our state's vast potential and talent, and the resources we invest in education, we can and must demand better. Rather than one radical social engineering experiment after another, our legislators should work across party lines to develop and implement results-focused, common-sense solutions that will give our children the kind of education they need and deserve, in community schools. We must ensure that Virginia remains both a leader in workforce development and the kind of place that dynamic businesses and talented people will want to call home.
It goes without saying that health care is a major concern of people all across our country. It also should go without saying that people of good conscience want for their fellow citizens to have access to affordable, quality health care. But having government directly involved in the process only distorts market forces and soon becomes counterproductive.
No one wins if the entire (artificial) structure collapses. Rather than involving itself directly in the process -- and in so doing making it unsustainable for insurers to stay in business, while using taxpayer funds to subsidize ever-higher premiums -- government should create incentives for a truly functional market that gives consumers more choice while fostering competition to control premiums. I think that common-sense standards like allowing college-age children to remain on their parents' policies while they're just starting out in professional life, or providing for maternity care, are just that -- common sense. But we also should be exploring the creation of larger risk pools by allowing companies to sell insurance across state lines; allowing small businesses and even groups of individuals to band together to form larger risk pools of their own and thus negotiate more attractive premiums for insurance plans whose benefits more closely match their particular coverage needs; and more.
But insurance is only part of the equation. We must tackle the costs of health care as well. A report by The Economist showed that while GDP per person has increased three-fold since 1960, over the same period health spending per person has grown to more than eight times as much. We must find ways to bring costs (especially for pharmaceuticals) under control, give consumers more choices with respect to obtaining primary health care, and restructure and reform "safety net" programs so that we can provide care for those who need the most help and do so in a cost-effective way.
As I've said before, "We're all in this together." If we put aside partisan rancor and instead focus on our people and their needs, we can develop and implement bold new solutions for delivering the standard of care that has made our country the envy of the world, without busting our budgets and thereby destroying the very foundations of the system of care that we are trying to save.
While I'm a strong proponent of fiscal discipline, one issue area to which Virginia needs to devote greater effort and resources is that of combating the interrelated problems of substance abuse/addiction and mental illness. You've no doubt read about our country's growing problem with opiate addiction, and the associated resurgence of addiction to (cheaper) heroin. Yet the scope of the problem right here in Virginia is appalling. Drug overdoses surpassed both motor-vehicle related fatalities and gun-related fatalities as the number one cause of unnatural death back in 2013.
I've seen these problems manifest themselves in my own neighborhood, and have seen the effects they have had on some of my friends' and neighbors' families. These are all the more heart-rending when we see our young people caught in a downward spiral around the mutually reinforcing ills of addiction and mental illness. In the case of many adults, mental illness has been a root cause of violent crime, including domestic violence. Put plainly, our mental/behavioral health care and addiction treatment systems are letting down our fellow Virginians most in need. When we continually fail them, we also expose our broader communities to greater risk.
This has to stop. I'm committed to overhauling and improving our health care system so that those most in need can reliably get the help they deserve. We must adopt a holistic approach, one that addresses all facets of these problems, including education, prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. We must focus more law enforcement attention and action on those who prey upon the most vulnerable in our society, most especially our children, and put those people out of business and behind bars. My vision is for a task force comprised of lawmakers, medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, and a cross-section of citizens (including parents) to look at best practices around the country and then to develop practical recommendations that the state and our civic institutions can put into law and practice to provide meaningful and measurable improvement in this area. We owe it to our fellow Virginians, and to our children, to make this a priority.
Our community faces other threats as well. The "progressive" majority is largely ignoring the very real challenges posed by gangs and other organized criminal groups, and the often "unseen" scourge of human trafficking. We're seeing more and more young people get caught up in gang activity, to the point that we have witnessed high school students murder one another over competition for "turf" or lucrative drug sales in our schools. Too many women and children are being trafficked essentially as slaves to be sold into forced labor or prostitution. This isn't the kind of Virginia I want for us and our children to live in. I'm tired of shoulder shrugs and hearing "That's just how things are now." We must do better, and I intend to fight for practical solutions that can make a real difference.
Each day my youngest daughter goes off to public school, so I take violence prevention and public safety very seriously. Like you, I live here with my family. Fundamentally, gun violence is a people problem, so we must combat it through a holistic and complementary set of policies and programs that focuses on the heart of the problem – people.
I am staunch defender of our Second Amendment rights. Every day, tens of millions of American lawfully and responsibly own a firearm – whether for hunting, competition, recreational activity, or home and personal defense. We can enhance public safety without abridging Virginians’ constitutional rights. I support the following approaches to making us all safer and reducing violent crime:
These reasonable measures to enhance public safety are consistent with protecting the full range of our constitutional rights. Let’s stop playing hyperpartisan politics and do the right things for us all rather than promoting ineffective policies that only punish the law-abiding while simultaneously making us all less safe.
Please check back often for new and updated information on these and other issues.
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