AARP Forum Focuses On Seniors Issues

John Edwards and Dave Nutter at AARP Forum.

by Valerie Garner

Del. Nutter sidestepped the question from Jay Warren when asked which Republican primary candidate he would support for President. Pressed again by Warren he said he could “live” with Gov. Mitt Romney. Sen. Edwards responded that “as a Democrat I support the President.”

Moderator and Channel 10 News Anchor Jay Warren opened the AARP forum saying that it would “cover issues that usually don’t get covered.” The debate was held at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood last Wednesday.

Democrat Senator John Edwards is defending his seat in the 21st district that includes Roanoke City. Republican challenger Delegate Dave Nutter of Christiansburg and other Republican challengers throughout the state are jockeying for control of the Senate.

Discussing the topic of helping seniors remain in their homes as they age, Nutter said “there are opportunities for us to provide grants to seniors to help them stay in their homes and lower costs of institutionalized care.”

Edwards voted for Virginia’s long-term care partnership program. With the purchase of a partnership policy, a consumer can become eligible for Medicaid coverage after using the insurance benefits without having to exhaust his or her own assets to qualify for such coverage. “This protects seniors – it gives them peace of mind,” said Edwards.

Edwards said the Governor would like to turn the Virginia Retirement System into a defined contribution plan subject to the ups and downs of the stock market.

Nutter said that legislation had been proposed to set up a voluntary defined contribution plan. Edwards called the governor’s program a “breach of trust.”

When it came to increasing jobs, Edwards said that investing in education was the way to create jobs. He blamed the House for cutting funds from the Virginia Extension Program – “it is a job creating institution … you don’t create jobs by cutting, cutting, cutting,” he said.

Nutter’s response: “jobs are created by the private sector. We have to live within our means.” Nutter advocated for certificates and associates degrees in needed skills that would put students to work immediately after school.

Rather then cut 6% more from agencies as the governor has suggested, each candidate was quizzed on tax increases to avoid more drastic cuts.

Edwards called for prioritizing education and healthcare in the budget. He admonished depletion of the general operating fund to shore up the transportation trust fund. The general fund finances education and healthcare. “That’s wrong—we shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.

Both said they would not support shifting secondary road maintenance to localities.

“These are challenging times … government has to live in the confines of its budget. I’m not supporting any more tax increases,” said Nutter. He advocated for reallocating resources to critical areas.

Edwards advocated for Pre-K education for all children saying, “it has been proven that these children do better in life.”  Nutter voted against Pre-K because “schools don’t have the capacity for it.” He wants to see more parent responsibility.

Nutter’s mailings paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia have been targeting Edwards’ support for raising the gas tax to fund road maintenance. During the debate he explained how raising the gas tax would result in increased costs for moving goods that would only end up being passed down to consumers.

Edwards wanted to know “what about taking money from education to pay for transportation—that’s what my opponent wants to do – that’s what the governor wants to do.” Edwards called it “stealing” from public education to fix potholes.

Regarding payday lending Edwards said he has tried to get a 36% cap on car title loans to close that loophole, but the house voted against it. Nutter blamed Senate Majority leader Dick Saslaw and the contributions he receives from payday lenders. Saslaw pushed passage of the bill allowing car title loans across state lines in the 2011 session.

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