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WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for 96th District seat in the House of Delegates.
Brandon Waltrip, a newcomer, faces incumbent Del. Brenda Pogge in the race. Waltrip’s answers are unedited and presented below.
The election takes place Nov. 3.
Read a completed questionnaire from Pogge here.
1. What are the three major issues facing the 96th District right now? How would you address those issues? Outline specific policy objectives.
The three major issues facing the 96th District are (1) maintaining the quality of our schools; (2) funding for transportation projects; and (3) economic development/job growth. Oddly enough, addressing these three issues begins with addressing another major issue, which is the crisis in our health care industry. By failing to accept federal Medicaid dollars the General Assembly has put Virginia’s hospitals on a crash course for bankruptcy, and our communities in an economic “noman’s land.”
If elected, I would support accepting federal Medicaid dollars under the ACA. This will bring $1.7 Billion dollars in funding to Virginia, create 32,000 jobs in the first year, and free up $242 million dollars in our state budget. The $242 Million dollars can then be used to address the cuts to our public school funding (14.5% since 2009), and address major infrastructure projects such as the I64 expansion, which should receive funding now, to expand from Williamsburg to Richmond. Further, we need to continue the revenue sharing program for secondary road construction to provide capital for localities to get local major road projects moving forward. Currently, VDOT has slated to defund this program over the next five years, and I would like to see the funding for this project maintained, even if at a lower dollar level.
Finally, I would work to reform our State Income Tax structure to broaden and solidify the middle class, by reducing and/or cutting altogether the state income tax on households under $100,000. Currently, households under $100,000 pay effectively the same tax rate as a household making over a million dollars a year. When we alleviate the tax burden on low income earners, those income streams go back into the economy to purchase goods and services that grow the economy and create jobs. I would keep the state capital gains tax at its current rate to incentivize small businesses and growth in the local economy for those who take the risk of opening and operating their own business.
2. On a statewide level, what challenges do you think need to be addressed in the next legislative session? How would you address them?
As stated above there is nothing more important than voting to accept federal Medicaid dollars. After that we have issues with our state income tax structure, funding for major transportation projects, funding levels for our public schools, resupplying the “rainy day fund,” reforming our juvenile justice system, redrawing gerrymandered political districts, moving our state off of the coal reliant power grid to natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar. Further, we have issues in the laws governing domestic relations; specifically with guidelines for spousal support that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and in some cases where they are not used at all.
Another growing issue for our district is supplying clean potable water, and whether local jurisdictions have the resources, infrastructure, and capital to handle those issues.
In all, there are a litany of issues that need to be addressed. If elected, I plan to work to tackle as many as possible. As a true independent I can work across both sides of the aisle to address challenges in multiple areas. I have laid out plans to deal with many of these issues on my website at www.brandonwaltrip.com. I would encourage all voters to take a few minutes and review the policies I’ve laid out on the website and consider contributing their own ideas as to how we might affect positive change to deal with these challenges in the next legislative session.
3. In 2014, a prolonged dispute over whether to accept federal Medicaid dollars as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act brought the state to the verge of a shutdown. In the 2015 legislative session, the issue received little attention. Will you advocate to accept the federal money or do you believe the decision not to accept the funds should remain? Explain your answer.
From the beginning of this campaign I have stated I would accept federal Medicaid dollars under the PPACA. Currently, polls indicate 74% of Virginians support expanding and accepting the funding. It is imperative in addressing issues of rising health insurance cost, keeping our hospitals competitive, and it is a sound business decision. Further, it is a moral issue of ensuring working families in Virginia are protected in their most difficult times. I would also incorporate my answer from question #1 above concerning the level of funding it would bring to the Commonwealth for taxes that we are already paying, and the number of jobs it would create. Importantly, voters should recognize our GDP has been 0.0% for the last year, and has not been above 1% for a number of years. We need to take steps to grow and develop our economy and accepting Medicaid funding is the first step in that process.
4. Talk about your philosophy for how – or if – the state should fund public education. Be specific to these phases: preK, K12 and higher education.
The General Assembly should provide funding for all aspects of education from preK through higher education. However, the General Assembly needs to be specific in their appropriation of funds to localities to ensure the funding ends up in the classroom. For example, the General Assembly could expand its funding for the Head Start program to provide pay for teachers that would allow a greater number of preK students who may otherwise not qualify to be enrolled in the program and receive its benefits. Study after study indicate that students who have strong, early education perform better academically, have lower dropout rates, and higher college attendance rates.
Regarding K12, the General Assembly should focus on assisting localities in the cost of services that they cannot otherwise afford that provide students the broadest range of opportunities during their formative educational years. This includes programs such as the STEM program. Additionally, the General Assembly can free up local dollars for education by providing funding in areas outside of academics. For example, by allocating funding for fire & safety death benefits, the General Assembly could alleviate this burden from the localities and these freed up funds could be used in the local educational system.
On the higher education level the General Assembly should focus on ensuring the cost of higher education remains competitive with colleges and universities in other states. This will draw more students, and eventually more workers to the Commonwealth, broadening the tax base and the level of funding our public colleges receive. Further, the General Assembly should support programs between local community colleges that pair vocational or service industry education with employers.
5. Why are you the best person to represent the constituents of the 96th District?
I am the best person to represent this district because I fully understand the specific issues our district is facing and have laid out specific policies to deal with those issues. Many of these issues are prevalent throughout the Commonwealth and need to be addressed on the state level to be fully appreciated and realized. As an independent I can focus on the best policy for our district and not a party rhetoric or position.
Further, I philosophically take the position that effective government is a government that works for the people in very specific areas to ensure a quality a life, fairness and opportunity in the economy, and protection for those who have been harmed.
As a business owner, I have experience in making hard decisions, balancing revenues and expenses, and anticipating future needs. As an attorney, I have the education and training to make solution oriented critical decisions for the benefit of others, while also advocating for their positions. Experience in the legal field also allows me to see first hand how laws often intended for one purpose cause more harm than good, and make decisive changes in a timely manner should the laws have unintended consequences.
Finally, I have demonstrated a life commitment to hard work, industrious enterprise, and a love of family and community that supersedes special interest. At historical times such as these, when important decision regarding our public education system, health care and our economy need selfless leadership, believe these qualities are most important in a representative and what make me the best person to represent the 96th District.