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Candidates state their cases in forum

The state budget, jobs, electric rates and healthcare were all issues local candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates were asked to address Wednesday night during a forum held at New River Community College.
Sponsored by The Southwest Times and Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, the candidate’s forum was designed to give the public an opportunity to ask the candidates questions and learn more about them prior to the Nov. 3 general election.
Participating in the event were incumbent Sixth District Del. Anne B. Crockett-Stark (R-Wytheville) and her opponent, Democrat Carole Pratt; and incumbent Seventh District Del. Dave Nutter (R-Christiansburg) and his opponent, Democrat Peggy Frank.
After each candidate was given an opportunity to make a three-minute opening statement, the candidates each had three minutes to respond to one question submitted to them in advance: “The massive state budget cuts have been big news lately due to revenue shortfalls. What is your plan for increasing state revenue?”
Pratt said the first thing she would do is “invest in the jobs we already have here.” She called homegrown jobs “the heartbeat and backbone of the community.”
Pratt called for putting the Commonwealth’s money where “we can get the biggest bang for our bucks:” early childhood education and reading skills, a transportation plan that will create jobs immediately and address the area’s structurally-deficient bridges, put money into programs that work such as free clinics, invest in the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to promote economic development, and a “Virginia is for Lovers” license plate.
Crockett-Stark said this is the worse time to raise taxes in order to increase revenue. So, she suggested adjusting state regulations that are harmful to retail business and agri-business, letting businesses keep more of their money in order to grow, keeping more money in the consumer’s pocket to spend in their own locality, increase the state’s use of transportation stimulus funds to stimulate the economy.
The incumbent Sixth District delegate said the Commonwealth already has a transportation plan in place and a “lock box” needs to be placed on the transportation fund “before we do any new taxes.”
Crockett-Stark went on to say “this isn’t the year for bells and whistles. We can buy new shoes, but they don’t have to be the top name brand. We need to fund our needs and put our desires on hold.”
Frank said raising taxes at this time would be “wrong” because the nation is in the worst economic recession since the 1930s, the New River Valley has been faced with 1,000 announced layoffs through June of 2009 and national unemployment is approaching double digits.
She said she believes Virginia will “grow” its way “out of the recession,” so her primary focus in the House of Delegates will be to create jobs and grow the economy. She supports increased funding for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to allow the New River Valley to compete with Tidewater and Northern Virginia regions for economic development. She also called for more partnerships between local colleges/universities and local businesses because “education is the long-term key to our economy,” she added. She said she would encourage local businesses to provide goods and services to area colleges and universities and for research faculty to take their products to the market. She added that she will work “tirelessly” to pull the area out of the recession.
Nutter acknowledged the financial situation in Virginia is “pretty bad.” He pointed out that about two-thirds of the governor’s budget cuts are “one-time fixes.” He said borrowing out of next year’s stimulus money to fix cuts in education this year is just creating a “giant structural hole” in the second year’s budget. “So we’re going to have a lot of problems.”
He said some tough choices are going to have to be made because “we’re not going to be able to add anything new – a whole lot. What we’re going to have to do though is prioritize, and it’s going to get very difficult.”
Nutter said investments must be made into programs that will stimulate the economy and “we must draw a bright line in the sand for not raising taxes on anything, period.” He stressed a need to look at regulations that will hinder economic and business growth and the need to put money back into Virginia’s interstate rest areas because the state is spending more money on tourism, but closing rest areas is the equivalent of “putting up a big sign saying ‘you’re not welcome.’”
Before addressing questions from the audience, each candidate also was given the opportunity to ask their opponent a question.
Crockett-Stark asked Pratt, whom Gov. Tim Kaine appointed to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership in 2007, what she has done as a member of the committee to bring businesses and jobs to the “empty” Commerce Park on Route 100.
Pratt said the board meets quarterly, but she noted it is a “tough time” to get “big projects” to come to this state or any other state. She said the best use of the Commerce Park is to market it to smaller businesses so the area doesn’t rely so much on one business to support the area’s economy and jobs.
She acknowledged the committee is having difficulties drawing business to the Commerce Park, but with federal funding to improve the runway at the adjacent airport she anticipates seeing some “diversified” businesses locating in the park.
Pratt asked Crockett-Stark if she would consider taking a forum such as Wednesday’s into each area of the district.
Crockett-Stark said forums are planned in Wytheville and Bland County. She said she has always had an open-door policy, has met with governmental bodies and other organizations, and has gone into each area of the district to keep her constituents informed on what the legislature is doing.
She said she feels she has always had an open forum with the public and she is willing to participate in any forum organized by “an appropriate group.”
Nutter asked Frank if she would vote to put a tax increase on the governor’s desk.
Frank said with the economy the way it is right now she doesn’t see how any type of tax could be increased at this point.
Frank asked Nutter why he rejected federal stimulus funds for unemployment insurance given the number of layoffs in the area over the past year.
Nutter said he is “glad to help set the record straight” in that regards. He said the house and senate unanimously voted to increase unemployment benefits to “historic proportions.” He said he didn’t vote on a “permanent tax increase on every job in Virginia” that would be paid for by the employer to extend benefits to people who work less than 15 hours per week because “under the plan a high school student who worked over the summer could qualify for unemployment benefits while going back to school.”
He said the unemployment fund “is not an entitlement program” and he isn’t going to “play Russian Roulette with every job in Virginia with the hopes of adding an additional permanent tax increase to the unemployment tax insurance fund.”
He added that the best form of unemployment insurance is to “get people back to work and make it easier for employers to hire people.”
Responding to questions from the public, none of the candidates said they would support an increase in the gasoline tax to pay for transportation.
Frank said she wouldn’t raise any taxes now. She said she would fund transportation by building jobs and businesses to increase revenue for the state.
Nutter said transportation revenue comes from gas tax and car sales, both of which are down now. He said about $400 million to $500 million in bond money will soon be freed up to apply to transportation “so we can start making some movement forward.” Nonetheless, he said getting people spending money is the key and the best way to do that is to keep burdens off the consumers and businesses.
Pratt said the gas tax is counter-intuitive plan for funding transportation because as gas consumption goes down the revenue stream goes down. She said a bond referendum would be a good means of meeting transportation needs since Virginia has a “triple A bond rating” and has been voted one of the best states in the nation to do business.
Crockett-Stark said Virginia already has a transportation plan in place and a bonding issue to fund it. She said she is opposed to tolling because it would hurt the trucking companies transporting goods. Helping businesses develop will give the state the revenue to fund its transportation program.
Several citizens asked what the candidates would do to keep electricity affordable in Southwest Virginia given the number of rate increases Appalachian Power has received over the past year.
Pratt said, “people sitting at this (candidates) table” helped make the laws that “entitled” APCo to receive rate increases. She said the time has come for people to do things for the right reason, not just because they’re entitled to do so. She asked “the APCo’s of the world” to tighten their belts too and not take every rate increase their entitled to just because of that entitlement.
“If people would do the right thing by their constituents we’d be a whole lot better off,” she concluded.
Crockett-Stark said she invited the State Corporation Commission to Wytheville to hear from her constituents during one of the rate increase requests and she also spoke against the increases in Richmond. She noted that the SCC cut the amount of APCo’s requests each time so the SCC’s input in the situation has been good in that respect.
Frank said she keeps having people ask her how they’re going to be able to keep their houses heated in winter and cooled in summer with the repeated increases and current economic situation. She said if APCo has a right, but not an “absolute right” to the increases, the company should be taking into account the economic climate and not ask for so many increases or delay seeking increases until the economic picture improves.
Nutter said society has reached a point where energy and the environment are clashing. He said the public is going to have to decide whether it is willing to relax some of the environmental mandates placed on businesses in order to cut back on the number of rate increases needed to pay for those mandates.
He said he fought against the rate increases, but those types of policy questions are going to have to be addressed.
The audience also asked the candidates how they expect to get anything done in Richmond if they are returned to office or are elected to office for the first time.
All agreed the only way to get anything done is to work together “across the aisle” regardless of party affiliation.

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Candidates state their cases in forum

The state budget, jobs, electric rates and healthcare were all issues local candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates were asked to address Wednesday night during a forum held at New River Community College.
Sponsored by The Southwest Times and Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, the candidate’s forum was designed to give the public an opportunity to ask the candidates questions and learn more about them prior to the Nov. 3 general election.
Participating in the event were incumbent Sixth District Del. Anne B. Crockett-Stark (R-Wytheville) and her opponent, Democrat Carole Pratt; and incumbent Seventh District Del. Dave Nutter (R-Christiansburg) and his opponent, Democrat Peggy Frank.
After each candidate was given an opportunity to make a three-minute opening statement, the candidates each had three minutes to respond to one question submitted to them in advance: “The massive state budget cuts have been big news lately due to revenue shortfalls. What is your plan for increasing state revenue?”
Pratt said the first thing she would do is “invest in the jobs we already have here.” She called homegrown jobs “the heartbeat and backbone of the community.”
Pratt called for putting the Commonwealth’s money where “we can get the biggest bang for our bucks:” early childhood education and reading skills, a transportation plan that will create jobs immediately and address the area’s structurally-deficient bridges, put money into programs that work such as free clinics, invest in the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to promote economic development, and a “Virginia is for Lovers” license plate.
Crockett-Stark said this is the worse time to raise taxes in order to increase revenue. So, she suggested adjusting state regulations that are harmful to retail business and agri-business, letting businesses keep more of their money in order to grow, keeping more money in the consumer’s pocket to spend in their own locality, increase the state’s use of transportation stimulus funds to stimulate the economy.
The incumbent Sixth District delegate said the Commonwealth already has a transportation plan in place and a “lock box” needs to be placed on the transportation fund “before we do any new taxes.”
Crockett-Stark went on to say “this isn’t the year for bells and whistles. We can buy new shoes, but they don’t have to be the top name brand. We need to fund our needs and put our desires on hold.”
Frank said raising taxes at this time would be “wrong” because the nation is in the worst economic recession since the 1930s, the New River Valley has been faced with 1,000 announced layoffs through June of 2009 and national unemployment is approaching double digits.
She said she believes Virginia will “grow” its way “out of the recession,” so her primary focus in the House of Delegates will be to create jobs and grow the economy. She supports increased funding for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to allow the New River Valley to compete with Tidewater and Northern Virginia regions for economic development. She also called for more partnerships between local colleges/universities and local businesses because “education is the long-term key to our economy,” she added. She said she would encourage local businesses to provide goods and services to area colleges and universities and for research faculty to take their products to the market. She added that she will work “tirelessly” to pull the area out of the recession.
Nutter acknowledged the financial situation in Virginia is “pretty bad.” He pointed out that about two-thirds of the governor’s budget cuts are “one-time fixes.” He said borrowing out of next year’s stimulus money to fix cuts in education this year is just creating a “giant structural hole” in the second year’s budget. “So we’re going to have a lot of problems.”
He said some tough choices are going to have to be made because “we’re not going to be able to add anything new – a whole lot. What we’re going to have to do though is prioritize, and it’s going to get very difficult.”
Nutter said investments must be made into programs that will stimulate the economy and “we must draw a bright line in the sand for not raising taxes on anything, period.” He stressed a need to look at regulations that will hinder economic and business growth and the need to put money back into Virginia’s interstate rest areas because the state is spending more money on tourism, but closing rest areas is the equivalent of “putting up a big sign saying ‘you’re not welcome.’”
Before addressing questions from the audience, each candidate also was given the opportunity to ask their opponent a question.
Crockett-Stark asked Pratt, whom Gov. Tim Kaine appointed to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership in 2007, what she has done as a member of the committee to bring businesses and jobs to the “empty” Commerce Park on Route 100.
Pratt said the board meets quarterly, but she noted it is a “tough time” to get “big projects” to come to this state or any other state. She said the best use of the Commerce Park is to market it to smaller businesses so the area doesn’t rely so much on one business to support the area’s economy and jobs.
She acknowledged the committee is having difficulties drawing business to the Commerce Park, but with federal funding to improve the runway at the adjacent airport she anticipates seeing some “diversified” businesses locating in the park.
Pratt asked Crockett-Stark if she would consider taking a forum such as Wednesday’s into each area of the district.
Crockett-Stark said forums are planned in Wytheville and Bland County. She said she has always had an open-door policy, has met with governmental bodies and other organizations, and has gone into each area of the district to keep her constituents informed on what the legislature is doing.
She said she feels she has always had an open forum with the public and she is willing to participate in any forum organized by “an appropriate group.”
Nutter asked Frank if she would vote to put a tax increase on the governor’s desk.
Frank said with the economy the way it is right now she doesn’t see how any type of tax could be increased at this point.
Frank asked Nutter why he rejected federal stimulus funds for unemployment insurance given the number of layoffs in the area over the past year.
Nutter said he is “glad to help set the record straight” in that regards. He said the house and senate unanimously voted to increase unemployment benefits to “historic proportions.” He said he didn’t vote on a “permanent tax increase on every job in Virginia” that would be paid for by the employer to extend benefits to people who work less than 15 hours per week because “under the plan a high school student who worked over the summer could qualify for unemployment benefits while going back to school.”
He said the unemployment fund “is not an entitlement program” and he isn’t going to “play Russian Roulette with every job in Virginia with the hopes of adding an additional permanent tax increase to the unemployment tax insurance fund.”
He added that the best form of unemployment insurance is to “get people back to work and make it easier for employers to hire people.”
Responding to questions from the public, none of the candidates said they would support an increase in the gasoline tax to pay for transportation.
Frank said she wouldn’t raise any taxes now. She said she would fund transportation by building jobs and businesses to increase revenue for the state.
Nutter said transportation revenue comes from gas tax and car sales, both of which are down now. He said about $400 million to $500 million in bond money will soon be freed up to apply to transportation “so we can start making some movement forward.” Nonetheless, he said getting people spending money is the key and the best way to do that is to keep burdens off the consumers and businesses.
Pratt said the gas tax is counter-intuitive plan for funding transportation because as gas consumption goes down the revenue stream goes down. She said a bond referendum would be a good means of meeting transportation needs since Virginia has a “triple A bond rating” and has been voted one of the best states in the nation to do business.
Crockett-Stark said Virginia already has a transportation plan in place and a bonding issue to fund it. She said she is opposed to tolling because it would hurt the trucking companies transporting goods. Helping businesses develop will give the state the revenue to fund its transportation program.
Several citizens asked what the candidates would do to keep electricity affordable in Southwest Virginia given the number of rate increases Appalachian Power has received over the past year.
Pratt said, “people sitting at this (candidates) table” helped make the laws that “entitled” APCo to receive rate increases. She said the time has come for people to do things for the right reason, not just because they’re entitled to do so. She asked “the APCo’s of the world” to tighten their belts too and not take every rate increase their entitled to just because of that entitlement.
“If people would do the right thing by their constituents we’d be a whole lot better off,” she concluded.
Crockett-Stark said she invited the State Corporation Commission to Wytheville to hear from her constituents during one of the rate increase requests and she also spoke against the increases in Richmond. She noted that the SCC cut the amount of APCo’s requests each time so the SCC’s input in the situation has been good in that respect.
Frank said she keeps having people ask her how they’re going to be able to keep their houses heated in winter and cooled in summer with the repeated increases and current economic situation. She said if APCo has a right, but not an “absolute right” to the increases, the company should be taking into account the economic climate and not ask for so many increases or delay seeking increases until the economic picture improves.
Nutter said society has reached a point where energy and the environment are clashing. He said the public is going to have to decide whether it is willing to relax some of the environmental mandates placed on businesses in order to cut back on the number of rate increases needed to pay for those mandates.
He said he fought against the rate increases, but those types of policy questions are going to have to be addressed.
The audience also asked the candidates how they expect to get anything done in Richmond if they are returned to office or are elected to office for the first time.
All agreed the only way to get anything done is to work together “across the aisle” regardless of party affiliation.

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