Friday, October 12, 2012

Senate candidates address Virginia Economic Development Fall Conference

Matt Leonard Executive Director of Halifax County Industrial Development Authority talks with George Allen before his speech.

Former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen avoided occupying the same space Thursday as both Kaine and Allen addressed the Virginia Economic Development Fall Conference separately at the Hotel Roanoke. As the door closed and Kaine walked out Allen walked down the steps to the foyer.

Allen stopped to chat with Matt Leonard, Executive Director of the Halifax Industrial Development Authority. Allen was scribbling in his notepad as Leonard talked with him. Later Allen referring to Leonard said that as governor he brought the Dollar General Corporation to Halifax County. They then had trouble finding qualified truck drivers and Allen worked to bring a truck driving school to Southside Virginia Community College. Leonard said, “I was pleased the governor gave me a minute of his time.”

Tim Kaine spoke first saying that he differed with President Obama in that he would let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those making $500,000 or more. Obama’s plan calls for $250,000. Kaine called it a compromise. Confusing the matter Vice President Joe Biden said during his debate with Republican candidate Paul Ryan Thursday night that is was, “people making a million dollars or more.” It’s unclear whether that was a gaff or a change in the Obama/Biden position.

Tim Kaine

Kaine said Allen and the Republicans want all cuts and no revenue to avoid sequestration. “I just don’t believe the arithmetic or the economics would work … the obstacle right now is the ball and chain of congress.”

Sequestration is the result of the failure of a bipartisan joint committee to reach consensus on $1.2 trillion of additional spending cuts over 10 years by January 1, 2013. That deal agreed to by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner would allow the debt ceiling to be raised.

A few days after the August, 2011 deal was struck the U.S. credit rating was downgraded but not because of “the mechanics of the deal,” said Kaine. Standard & Poor’s saw the reluctance of congress to raise revenue. He sighted his ability to compromise as mayor of Richmond and governor – “never name-calling even in disagreement.” He said he would do the same in the U.S. Senate.

He pledged that “if it is a gang of six or eight or fourteen or one and a half I want to be part of it.”

In answer to a question on what he would do to avoid sequestration Kaine laid out a three-part solution. One, tax cut expiration – two, let the government negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare – three, eliminate subsidies to oil companies. That leaves $230 million left to cut over 10 years that is a more doable objective. Locally the GE plant in Salem would be effected by sequestration he said. They are dependent on tax incentives in the production of wind turbines. “These new industries are key to our economic future.” said Kaine. For long term fiscal health both sides of the balance sheet need work he said.

George Allen

Allen said he would start with the plan passed in the Republican controlled House and look at revenues outside of raising taxes. Efficiencies in government would save $50 billion. Repealing Obamacare along with spending reductions would save between $700 million and $1 trillion he said. Allen advocated for offshore energy lease sales saying the royalties would generate an estimated $250 million a year for Virginia. He would also push for drilling on federal land.

Allen said Kaine refuses to oppose regulations that would outlaw coal and there would be no hope of competing with natural gas. He promised that if elected to the Senate “on day one after being sworn in I will introduce a bill to allow Virginia to produce oil and natural gas off our coast and use those royalties for roads and transportation.”

George Allen touted during his time as governor from 1994-1998 over 312,000 new jobs were created and that he created an environment that said, “Virginia was open for business.” He contrasted that with Kaine’s term as governor during the height of the recession from 2006-2010 accusing him of shutting down highway rest stops to balance the budget.

Allen said he worked across party lines when he was governor and improved education, kept college tuition affordable, reduced taxes on small business and doubled the number of enterprise zones to 50. More recently the number of enterprise zones have been reduced and combined due to lack of state funding. A restructuring of Roanoke’s enterprise zones is on city council’s agenda for Monday.

Regulations need to be evaluated by asking “what’s the purpose of the regulation and if the purpose is still a valid goal – is there a more simple, a more fair or expeditious way of complying with the regulation,” said Allen.

George Allen and Bob Goodlatte stop at Euro Bakery

“What I’d like to see today is a government in Washington that is on our side,” said Allen. “People are hurting in Virginia … Washington just throws more roadblocks up.” Sequestration threatens Virginia’s heavily weighted military economy. Allen said he could see this coming. The Democrats say “let’s raise taxes but in this economy that would only cause more job loses,” he said. “Taxes do not create more jobs except maybe at the IRS.” He claimed that the Senate Democrats are using the armed forces as leverage to raise taxes on job creating small business owners.

Allen proposes reducing corporate taxes to 20 percent from 35 percent saying it would create 500,000 jobs and bring in $23 billion in revenues. Allen also blamed “uncertainty in not knowing what the tax law will be … they’re worried about this heathcare tax law.” He also called for a simpler tax code.

Allen would “repeal and replace Obamacare.” He blasted the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board for obstructing job growth. “How can a federal agency ever have a lawsuit against a company for investing in a right-to-work state” – in reference to Boeing moving a plant to South Carolina from Washington state.

After Allen left the Hotel Roanoke he pressed the flesh with Congressman Bob Goodlatte at the City Market Building. He handed out leaflets to the lunch crowd and talked to vendors. A few shoutouts echoed through the bustling crowd “you’ve got my vote” they said.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Election 2012, Elections, National, Politics


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