Here it is: As promised. My written interview with Delegate Chris Peace:
Question: Tell the blog readers your take on the Justice Roush/Judge Alston controversy? Could this thing turn into a constitutional crisis as Steve Emmert suggests in his blog (www.virginia-appeals.com) and what would you propose to prevent it?
Answer: As an attorney and state Delegate who served on the Courts of Justice committee, the legislative failure to elect a judge to the Virginia Supreme Court gives me great concern but not for the reasons you might suspect. The results or lack thereof are a reminder that elections have consequences. This year voters should choose to enhance the Republican Senate Majority to avoid these situations in the future thereby assuring Virginians of a conservative court. Further, voters should endorse the Republican House of Delegates for its principled positions. Not once in my ten years serving the people of our District have I witnessed a Governor chose such a brazeningly political course for our judicial branch. Therefore, the system did not break down last month because the system is flawed.
In brief, the House of Delegates Courts of Justice Committee interviewed its candidate for the unexpected vacancy created over the summer while the legislature was out of session. Our candidate was found qualified; in fact, Judge Alston, who serves on the Virginia Court of Appeals, was determined by the Committee as well as many bar associations to be highly qualified. Unfortunately, in a highly partisan move, Governor McAuliffe used his privilege as the state’s chief executive to select and install an interim judge for the high court. There was no consultation with the legislative branch whose Constitutional responsibility it is to elect Supreme Court judges. Upon determination by this = committee, Judge Alston was endorsed by majority vote of the whole House only to later fail by one vote in the Senate. But for the Senate’s failure to elect a judge to this important position there would be no controversy and Virginia would be the beneficiary of Judge Alston’s proven record. Too often the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the system. I have heard calls for elected judges or some non-political method of selecting judges. Neither makes sense. We do not need more politics in the system. Please remember to vote for your Republican House and Senate member this November.
Question: Should the entire BPOL tax be abolished in Virginia?
Answer: Virginia tax policy should not be a deterrent to economic growth and job creation. Therefore, the BPOL tax should be reformed or repealed.
Many Virginians may not know that to pay the state’s share of costs of the War of 1812 a business license requirement was broadened levying higher rates on more businesses. Unfortunately, Virginia businesses have been paying this higher tax ever since. Now, approximately 39 cities and about half of Virginia’s 95 counties impose this business, professional, and occupational license tax by requiring a license for every person engaged in a licensable activity at a definite place of business.
In today’s economic climate, the state government should endeavor to reduce taxes on businesses. As a state legislator, I have consistently voted against higher taxes including the largest tax increase in Virginia history, more commonly known as House Bill 2313 in 2013. With reform or repeal of BPOL, the state would create a climate for job creation and investment. The fact is that the majority of businesses who pay this tax are small businesses, which are the life blood of our local economies. In order to make Virginia the #1 state for business in the nation, as Delegate, I will advocate for job creating small businesses who want to invest in expansion and jobs. The BPOL tax is past due for reform or repeal.
Since 2006, as your state Delegate, I have consistently voted to reform the BPOL as well as eliminate and reform the onerous local machinery and tools tax. In 2011, I voted for House Bill 1587 which was the first real change in the BPOL tax in 200 years. Now law, the bill offers an option to localities to exempt, refund or rebate BPOL taxes for new businesses for the first two years of their existence. This provision would be well used as incentive for the recruitment and retention of business. Unfortunately most localities chose the status quo instead of providing businesses with needed relief. Also in 2011, I was one of just a small group of legislators who successfully co-patroned House Bill 1437 to allow localities to decide whether to impose the BPOL tax on a business’s gross receipts or its Virginia taxable income. This option would allow small businesses the opportunity to save a great deal of money which could be reinvested in business expansion or jobs.
Moreover, as a former member of the House Finance Committee, I supported former Chairman Purkey’s efforts to repeal the idle machinery and tools tax under the premise that one should not be taxed for machinery and tools not used in the generation of revenue. Again, if localities were to use some of these tools provided them by our legislative reforms, local economic development offices might show better results. In 2012, the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy outlined a path for reform of BPOL which remains worthy of consideration.
One of my colleagues has been quoted as saying, “I’m not a fan of BPOL, but I know we just can’t stop it because localities rely heavily on the tax revenue. But I would like to . . . wean ourselves off of that, because it is a deterrent to businesses moving and expanding here.” I agree that it remains a deterrent. If reform is the only viable alternative to repeal, then I prefer an option to improve and simplify the BPOL tax making it less of a deterrent for growth and job creation.
Unlike DC lawmakers whose policies have made it harder to create jobs, in Richmond, I along with my colleagues look for solutions to problems so small businesses can find the funding to start and grow. This efficient and effective leadership of which I have been a part is total absent in Washington, D.C. where there is rampant debt, deficits and higher taxes. Alternatively, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have worked to balance budgets and make tough cuts in discretionary spending. In fact, the House has killed 26 separate tax increases worth over $30 B since 2003, and I have strongly opposed expanding Obamacare in Virginia. Last year’s $2.4 B shortfall crisis was solved by not by grabbing the “free” money from Obamacare but by making tough choices to balance the budget. Virginia now spends $1B less in general fund dollars than in last year’s original budget. For all those working families in our District, the legislature also eliminated $11.7 M in fees and $33 M in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe. Working together against future shortfalls, I supported efforts to pre-pay the 2017 rainy day fund deposit approximating $129.5 million bringing the balance back to $429 million.
Question: What is the future of Medicaid expansion of any kind in Virginia?
Answer: Virginia will continue to oppose Obama’s Medicaid expansion.
The 2015 General Assembly adjourned ahead of schedule last year – the first time in 15 years – demonstrating the clear contrast between Richmond and Washington. While Washington is gridlocked with partisanship, Republicans in Richmond are leading and governing and I am proud to be a part of leading this responsible government.
As a member of the budget committee, I worked to pass a conservative, responsible and most importantly balanced state budget that spends $1 billion less in general funds than last year’s originally-adopted budget, rejects Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and reprioritizes funding for pay raises for state employees, teachers and state troopers. The budget eliminated $33 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe as well as $11.7 million in fees proposed by the Governor.
Most importantly, our budget rejected Governor McAuliffe’s attempt to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and instead offers a targeted healthcare safety net package for the neediest Virginians. Unlike my opponent who favors greatly expanding entitlement programs and an Obama-style single payer model, I believe that the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice, and that all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society. Now is not the time to entangle Virginia in the expansion of Medicaid as a Federal entitlement program already the fastest growing, most costly program in the state budget. The state legislature with its conservative leadership has demonstrated that fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraint is being exercised by preventing the expansion of Medicaid at this time.
Instead of expanding a failed system like Medicaid, the House provided a targeted investment to strengthen the healthcare safety net. This funding will provide services to about 22,000 seriously mentally-ill patients, including a prescription drug benefit, doubles operational funding for free clinics to over $6 million per year, funds behavioral health community services including three new PACT teams and six new drop-off centers, and increases funding for children’s psychiatry and crisis services. AS we have seen with recent and disturbing events involving Virginians with serious mental illness, these types of strategic investments will provide the best return on investment instead of new and expanded welfare programs.
Question: What should be done about increased tuition at our state colleges and universities in Virginia? Could there be an emphasis on reducing administrative costs and other perks?
Answer: As your state Delegate I am committed to making College more accessible and affordable.
In fact, as a member of the House budget committee, I have introduced amendments to freeze or cap the increases in tuition. I have also work to see our state secondary system invest more in career and technical education because there are those who may prefer entering the workforce earlier, without the college debt, to work in good paying jobs. Just this year, as a member of the House of Delegates I worked to make college more affordable and accessible for Virginia families. Specifically, in the budget, we included funding to open up 2,100 more in-state enrollment slots and transfer slots for Virginia families and $10.1 million more for student financial aid. The House and Senate also passed legislation, with my support, to limit unreasonable student athletic fees. The amount of revenue schools can collect from athletic fees will be capped as a percentage of overall revenue. Athletic fees are one of the largest drivers of higher education costs. This bill seeks to hold those costs down for students and families. Finally, among others, we passed legislation to establish a more affordable, $4,000 per year online degree program for Virginia students and require schools to be more transparent about costs and graduation outcomes. I care deeply about the serious effects large college debts have on the economy and our youth. As your state Delegate I will continue my fight for more affordability and accessibility.
Question: Three important areas you want to seek legislation in the upcoming General Assembly?
Answer: In addition to a balanced budget, opposing new taxes, limiting job killing regulations on business, I look forward to my continued leadership role as Vice Chairman of General laws and the Chairman of the House Appropriations Transportation committees, where I will provide oversight and accountability of our system of infrastructure. As a ranking member of our House Health committee, I look forward to working on health deregulation initiatives, a.k.a. COPN health reform. As Chairman of the Virginia Commission on Youth, I will work to advance juvenile justice and child welfare reforms.
Question: Do you have a choice yet for President in 2016?
Answer: ABC (Anybody but Clinton)!
The Republican field is fortunate to have so many bright and fresh voices to lead our country and restore American excellence. Regardless of the nominee, 2016 will be an all hands on deck operation to defeat the “Obama 3rd Term,” which our nation cannot afford. I believe that many will agree that Governor Romney was right about Benghazi, Russia’s threat to the world, and the restructuring of Detroit’s finances among others. If you are a conservative and care about America, it is my hope that we will work hard to elect our Republican nominee.
For more information: visit my Facebook (/delegatepeace), Twitter (@DelCPeace) and www.chrispeace.com.
My re-election press release may be found here: http://chrispeace.com/2015/04/20/delegate-chris-peace-announces-his-bid-for-re-election-to-virginias-97th-house-district-in-2015/
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders