A few weeks ago, we asked Patch readers in Northern Virginia to throw out some questions for George Allen and Tim Kaine, both vying for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia.
So you asked and the candidates answered. Read George Allen's responses here.
Tim Kaine's answers, published below, are unedited.
1. There is considerable reporting in the popular media that Social Security and Medicare are in financial ruin and in need of a fix, but every time one person dares to speak-up and suggest constructive measures to save the system, the other candidate attacks that person for being insensitive to the needs of seniors and claims the proponent of modifications wants to dismantle the programs. How would you address these issues knowing full well the other side may attack you for being insensitive to our nation's seniors and others reliant on these programs?
Social Security and Medicare are earned benefits that our seniors have paid into and depend on during their retirement. Throughout the programs’ histories, the government has had to make changes to strengthen them and similar changes must be made now. Instead of privatizing Social Security, leaving seniors vulnerable to volatile markets, or turning Medicare into a voucher program, forcing seniors to negotiate directly with insurance companies themselves, we need to look at other alternatives. After listening to seniors across the Commonwealth, I have proposed changes to strengthen these essential programs. For Social Security, we can raise the income payroll tax cap so that it covers a similar percentage of income as it did in the 1980s under President Reagan, which would greatly extend the solvency of the program. For Medicare, allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices would save up to $24 billion every year. Action should be taken, but we must ensure seniors receive the benefits they’ve earned.
2. What have you done in your political career that has made you the most proud?
Virginia is unique in that its governors only get one four-year term to make their mark. My term coincided with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It was my responsibility to steer the Commonwealth through those tough times and position us to come out of the recession as strong as possible. I kept the budget balanced by making more than $5 billion in targeted cuts while finding ways to invest in important priorities like early childhood education, transit, and higher education facilities. As a result, Virginia was named the best state for business all four years by Forbes, the best managed state in America by Governing magazine, and the best state to raise a child by Education Week. We were Triple A bond rated by every ratings agency and the Pew Center on the States singled Virginia out for its exemplary management during recessionary times. The experience of leading in a difficult time and the independent validation of our hard work makes me proud and demonstrates some skills that I think are sorely needed in Washington.
3. There has been much discussion of accessing Virginia's offshore oceans as a good source for energy. Do you favor oil exploration or wind farms or both or neither? What legislation would you advocate to implement these objectives?
America’s long-term goal should be to expand the use of low-polluting forms of energy. It’s good for the economy, good for America’s security and good for the environment. We need to be on the cutting edge of new clean energy technologies like offshore wind, solar and nuclear power, as well as embracing Virginia’s wealth of native resources including coal and natural gas. Virginia has a particularly bright future in production of biodiesel from agricultural and forestry products. I also strongly believe in the need for energy conservation and improved efficiency, because the cheapest unit of energy is the one you don’t use. My energy and economic plans also call for the exploration of Virginia’s offshore oil and gas resources, so long as it can be done safely and Virginia receives an appropriate share of revenue. By investing in next generation power plant technologies, renewable energy, like wind and solar, and upgrades to our utility infrastructure, Virginia can tap into the emerging $2.3 trillion clean energy market and create new jobs right here in the Commonwealth.
4. What committee appointments would you seek and why?
As senator, I would like to serve on the education sub-committee of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to work on the “talent” issues that I’m so passionate about. I believe the key to our long-term economic success is continual improvement in our education and workforce development systems. As governor, I made critical investments in early childhood education that expanded the program by 40 percent, streamlined the state’s workforce development programs to make them more efficient, accountable, and effective, and expanded career and technical education opportunities. As senator, I want to take some of these strategies to the federal level and ensure that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind produces an education system that works for our students, families, and teachers.
I would also hope to serve on the Armed Services or Veterans Affairs Committees. Our commitment to our men and women in uniform cannot end when they return home. Because of wonderful advances in battlefield medicine our soldiers are surviving serious injuries, but many face a long road to recovery from wounds seen and unseen. Over the last six years, Senator Jim Webb has been a champion for veterans and his Post-9/11 GI Bill has given thousands of service members and their children the opportunity to pursue higher education. As senator, I will bring the same level of commitment to our veterans and work to ensure that our country cares for them in a way that honors their commitment and sacrifice. I will also look for ways to take advantage of the talent of our veterans. These men and women have leadership and technical skills to contribute to our economy. I will push for things like improved civilian credentialing for skills gained during service so that our veterans have an easier time gaining traction in the civilian workforce.
5. Which Senator in recent history (since 1970 or so) do you most admire and why? What characteristics of that Senator would you emulate?
This is a difficult question to answer because I have such admiration for Virginia’s current senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner. Their work on the pressing challenges of the day, including supporting our nation’s veterans, finding common ground on our debt and deficit challenges, and expanding economic opportunities for all Virginians, are efforts that should make the Commonwealth very proud.
In addition to taking advice and lessons from Jim and Mark, I hope to follow the example of another fine Virginia senator, John Warner. John was a principled senator who supported bipartisan measures and whose tenure in Congress is admired by all Virginians. As senator, I will approach issues like John Warner did: by pursuing a commonsense approach based on finding a middle ground to do what’s best for Virginia and the nation.
6. With science literacy declining in respect to the rest of our first world partners, what methods would you use to further science and technology education in our schools? What do you see as the greatest roadblock in promoting Critical Thinking in the youth of today?
America must win the race for talent. In order to compete in the global economy, we need a long-term plan that produces the best workforce in the world. As senator, I will support investments and smart reform in education from early childhood development through college and workforce development programs. These actions will guarantee the U.S. will continue to lead in innovation and job creation.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018. It’s clear we need to make STEM education a priority. As governor, I worked to advance STEM education through the creation of Governor’s Career and Technical Academies and by using the technological expertise of NASA to help revise Virginia’s science and math curricula.
As senator, I will work with all stakeholders – educators, industry leaders, businesses, and parents – to make STEM education a priority in the United States. I will support increased training and support for career and technical education so we can identify students that demonstrate interest and talent. These changes will certainly increase the amount of critical thinking taught to today’s students.
7. Broadly, how do you plan to support domestic oil and energy production? And specifically, if elected, will you help push the Keystone pipeline forward immediately?
As senator, I will continue to support the development of American oil and natural gas resources in a safe, responsible manner to help increase our energy independence, lower costs, and protect public health and the environment. I also strongly support the exploration of oil and natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf. If elected, I will support legislation introduced by Senator Warner and Senator Webb to allow Virginia to tap into its energy resources and participate in revenue sharing.
I hope the federal government has the opportunity to fully explore the potential benefits of the Keystone pipeline, but oppose efforts to rush a decision due to the significant questions surrounding it. As a former governor, I would never support overriding the concerns of affected states in order to rush a project of this magnitude. Oil production is now higher than it was under the previous administration. The American people expect their leaders to make informed, rational decisions, not rush to judgment on important projects because of an artificial, politically-motivated deadline.
In addition, I support the development of clean energy including wind and solar. More than 66,000 Virginians are currently employed in clean energy economy jobs. As a senator, I will invest in the development of renewable energy sources and conservation as well as support traditional energy sources.
8. What is your opinion on the increase of drug use in high schools today and what would you do against this?
Most of the work done to address drug use in schools takes place at the state and local level, but the federal government still has an important role to play by providing funding and guidance to these programs. I support the continuation of federal funding for education, mentoring, youth outreach, counseling, and other programs designed to discourage and counteract drug use among young people.
As governor, I established the Governor’s Office for Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative to bring 13 diverse state agencies together to address substance abuse, diseases, violence, gangs, and other health and social issues affecting Virginia’s citizens. The Collaborative allowed agencies to communicate, share resources, and operate more efficiently and effectively in achieving their goals. As senator, I would support similar initiatives.
9. You are seeking to represent the State of Virginia - home to more than 300,000 Federal workers. What is your opinion of the Federal workforce and how will you serve this set of constituents in the Senate?
Representing Virginia’s federal employees and retirees is an integral part of serving as the Commonwealth’s senator. I vigorously oppose those who bash public employees because I’ve served with so many wonderful public employees during my 16 years in office.
While we must address the current budget crisis, federal workers must not be unfairly targeted. I am the only candidate in this race with a bipartisan plan to avert sequestration and avoid harmful cuts to the military and the rest of our federal workforce. I've laid out a three step approach that I believe our leaders in Washington can find common ground on: allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making above $500,000, saving $500 billion over a decade; allow the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare, saving $240 billion over a decade; and end subsidies to the Big 5 oil companies, saving $24 billion over a decade. These common sense compromise steps would leave Congress the reasonable task of finding $236 billion in savings over the next 10 years to meet sequestration's mandated cuts. We can find targeted savings in this amount—as Secretary Panetta has acknowledged—without jeopardizing defense, slowing the economy, or destroying jobs. I reject the all-cuts mentality that some have endorsed because it will hammer key priorities like Medicare, education, infrastructure, and the federal workforce with steep cuts.
10. Should MWAA continue to have a permanent hand in Metro by controlling tolls on the Dulles Toll Road to pay for the Silver Line? Can or should the federal government help reduce the impact of the Silver Line on toll drivers?
When I was governor, getting construction started on the Silver Line was one of my top priorities. The project had been dormant under previous administrations and many thought it would never get done. I am extremely proud that my staff and I worked with our congressional delegation and the Bush administration to secure $900 million in critical federal funding that allowed us to begin construction on Phase I of the project during my term as governor. This was the single hardest project that I have ever worked on in public life.
As senator, I will battle every bit as hard for the successful completion of Phase II.
I will fight to ensure MWAA handles the project in a responsible and cost effective manner and that Phase II of the Silver Line receives sufficient federal funds to keep tolls reasonable.