Tim Kaine told 22 members of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning that Virginia would bear the brunt of federal budget cuts The former Governor of Virginia is running against former Governor and former U.S. Senator George Allen for the open seat left by retiring U.S. Senator Jim Webb.
Kaine recalled that federal spending in Virginia makes up about 13 percent of Virginia’s Gross Domestic Product and said he believes that federal spending cuts would hurt Virginia more than other states. Kaine said he subscribes to the formula that for every $3 dollars of cuts $1 of revenue needs to be raised.
He also believes that divisive social issues are hurting Virginia’s image. Kaine blamed George Allen for wanting to take the social issues that are dividing Richmond to the federal level. Allen has stated publicly that he supports the “personhood” bill. That bill was proposed by Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (HB1) who is challenging Allen for the Republican nomination. The bill has been set aside until 2013.
“People go into their own corners [on social issues] and we need to be coming together to solve our big economic and fiscal challenges – that will be an issue in the campaign,” said Kaine.
Kaine said in spite of a Roanoke College poll that came out Tuesday showing him trailing Allen by 8 points he is optimistic and said other polls show them tied. He said that in April he felt like he was “running into a stiff headwind – it doesn’t feel as strong now.”
The questions and discussions from the chamber attendees centered overwhelmingly on education. Finding the talent or skill that matches the job is a challenge with many jobs going unfilled. They agreed that there was a disconnect between what is being taught in schools and the skills needed in the workforce. Kaine agreed that there are technical training needs and that “sometimes it can be too much about college.” It is disheartening that 40 percent of college bound students have to take remedial courses – “It means that student is more likely to drop out.”
“It’s talent and brainpower that are our most precious resources,” said Kaine.
Other subjects included health care uncertainty, transportation and taxes. Kaine thought that increasing the gas tax was the wrong way to go since cars are becoming more fuel-efficient. Another point made by an attendee is that people don’t mind a tax rate increase if they know where it is going. The example he gave was the 2-cent meals tax targeted for city schools. Kaine agreed that people don’t get enough credit for understanding the tough decisions if it is explained to them.
The last question was “what can be done to actually get things done in Washington?” Kaine then diagnosed Congress as having two connected personalities – “an unwillingness to make a hard decision and an inability to work together. They feed off each other,” he said. He characterized Congress as more apt to tow the party line. The Senate on the other hand is smaller and with longer terms they get to know each other – “you don’t have a gang of six in the Congress.”
“When the Senate acts in a bipartisan way that’s the only thing that puts pressure on the House,” he said. The payroll tax extension was an example. When it passed the Senate 85-10 the House first balked but eventually voted for it.
Kaine’s strategy if elected is to find a like-minded Republican elected at the same time to partner with then ask “the gang of six to be the gang of eight.”