Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Virginia’s Junior U.S. Senator walks the fine line of bipartisanship

Virginia's U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Senator Mark Warner arrived exactly at his appointed time Monday saying, “it’s a wild time to be in Washington.” Warner was breathless after having left Advance Auto after what he called a “spirited conversation.” He was prepared for another round as he lunched with the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce.

Taking off his jacket Warner remarked on the successful economic strides made as a result of the stimulus and TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). “All the talking heads … the prognostication of where we were a year ago and where we are today – it’s much better than anyone would have anticipated,” said Warner.

As a member of the Commerce Committee Warner said he is committed to maintaining and increasing air service to Roanoke Regional Airport. The slot switching between US Airways and Delta Airlines threatens Roanoke’s economic stability. Roanoke would lose two direct flights to New York’s LaGuardia airport. “Negotiations are continuing,” said Warner.

Financial re-regulation is now on his plate. Warner and Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee are crafting regulation to maintain America’s leading innovative roll in the U.S. capital market. It’s a bipartisan effort that will never place America in another position of having to bailout the financial industry again said Warner.

Getting financing for small businesses is another agenda item for Warner. The plan would be modeled on the Virginia Capital Access program and would be structured to create separate loss reserve pools.

There are “things we can do around the margins on jobs,” said Warner. Candidly he admitted there is no major policy short of major tax reform and “that’s not going to happen short-term.” He described a program called HomeStar as a “little bit risky.” The program is designed to create jobs in existing industries by providing short-term incentives for energy efficiency improvements in residential buildings.

In conjunction with places like Home Depot and Lowe’s “we could create a certificate for up to 50% of an energy retrofit for homes”. Construction workers would be retrained to be insulation installers. Warner estimated it would put 600,000 people back to work for the short-term.

Warner has proposed legislation that would provide $10,000 per job for companies that would bring them back to the U.S. He said he would also lower the corporate tax rate.

The cost of healthcare “was going to financially destabilize us,” explained Warner. The shouting on healthcare is a reaction to the status quo. Work is still needed on cost containment and he is a proponent of tort reform.

When questioned on the reversion of the estate tax exemption from $3.5 million back to $1 million Warner understood that it made it difficult for people to plan. He predicted that the $3.5 million would remain in place but was unclear about the timeline and other fine print.

Transformation of energy policy is both a national security and job creation issue. “Right now our country is getting our lunch eaten because [other countries] are making it a business decision,” said Warner. Fossil fuel is not a long-term solution.

Warner is a supporter of offshore oil drilling, wind, solar and increased use of coal. The House approach of “cap and trade is dead,” said Warner.

The Junior Senator was surprised to learn that in Washington “What people say and what they do are two different things.” This made Warner long for his days as Governor when he only had to wrestle with Virginia’s General Assembly.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Politics

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