Note to readers: This is one in a series of question and answer articles about local candidates running for office. The Northern Virginia Daily asked candidates for the 26th Senate District to answer three questions. Unedited responses are below.
Shenandoah County voters go to the polls Nov. 5 to pick who represents them in the Virginia state senate. Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, faces a challenge by Democratic Party candidate April Moore for the 26th District seat in the senate.
The 26th District covers Harrisonburg and the counties of Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and part of Rockingham County.
What can state legislators do to help improve the economy in Shenandoah County?
During my tenure in the Senate, I’ve worked to preserve and improve Virginia’s historically high ranking as one of the best states in America for business. Our tax burden in Virginia is low, schools in most areas in Virginia are preparing our children for the workforce and our higher education system is among the best in America.
While I certainly want Virginia to be an attractive place for out of state businesses to locate their operations, we must remember that most new jobs are created by existing businesses already in Virginia. We have to be vigilant in our efforts to keep taxes low, reduce the regulatory burden on these businesses and make sure that our high schools, technical centers, community colleges and universities are providing the high quality work force they need to succeed.
I want our students to have opportunities right here in the Valley to find a job or to start a business. We also are operating in an economy in which broadband is essential for most businesses to succeed and expand. I have worked to promote programs that will expand the availability of broadband in rural parts of Virginia. I also have been a leader in working for an improved transportation system, with an emphasis on improving the safety and reliability of Interstate 81.
Finally, agriculture is the backbone of our economy in the Shenandoah Valley. I have worked to protect the property rights of farmers, to reduce fees and regulations, to secure cost share support for implementation of best management practices and to ensure that legislators from urban and suburban Virginia understand the challenges faced by farmers and the agricultural economy.
The Shenandoah Valley has a tremendous amount of economic development potential and I will continue to work with Valley legislators, business and civic leaders and local government to see that this potential is reached.
Where should the General Assembly spend most of the state’s revenue?
Right now, 23% of the state’s general fund revenue is funding the Medicaid program. 34% of general fund revenue funds education (K-Higher Education.) Those amounts and the percentage of state government revenue committed to these areas continue to grow and we have no reason to believe that it will not continue into the future. While I strongly prefer private insurance to a government run healthcare plan, we must improve the affordability of healthcare in order to slow the growing Medicaid enrollment. We just can’t afford to continue expanding Medicaid to cover more and more able bodied Virginians.
I have long held the view that education, transportation and public safety are the most fundamental government responsibilities. If we are not adequately providing these basic functions, government has no business increasing funding to the myriad of other programs that claim increasing shares of our tax dollars every year.
We have been very fortunate over the past several years to have experienced growing state revenues without raising taxes. We have increased funding for roads and education. We need to make sure that we continue to make progress in improving teacher pay. We have funded our constitutionally mandated “rainy day fund.” We have even provided modest tax relief for Virginia families who will be receiving refund checks this October. We have not done as well as we should in taking care of the dedicated men and women who are keeping our communities safe. We need to increase the number of Virginia State Troopers on the interstate. We need to improve the pay of sheriff’s deputies and jailers. Most importantly, we need to be good stewards of the resources we are given and to recognize that more money is not the solution to every problem.
How and when should legislators who represent Shenandoah County meet with its elected officials and discuss local concerns with state spending?
In my years in the legislature, I have maintained regular communications with the elected officials of the five counties, one city and eighteen incorporated towns I represent. I have routinely been available to meet with the governing body of local governments and with members of their professional staff to discuss their priorities leading up to General Assembly sessions. A number of the local governmental bodies have met annually with members of their legislative delegation. I have always endeavored to make myself available for these meetings and will continue to do so. My door is always open and I am always available to help local governments and citizens meet challenges and solve problems.