Economic Prosperity and Job Creation
Virginia was recently once again named the “Best State for Business” by CNBC. This doesn’t happen by accident, it’s through investments in education, transportation and a highly skilled workforce that led to this top ranking. It’s also been achieved by maintaining a reasonable regulatory and tax environment, as well as our right to work law that ensures workers are free to work wherever they like without being forced to give a portion of their paycheck to the union. It’s essential that we maintain these pro-job and pro-growth policies. As a businessman, I know that government can’t create jobs, but it can foster a climate to make it easier for the private sector to prosper.
While the economy is doing well and there are ample employment opportunities, I recognize there are still many individuals struggling to make ends meet. For many of these folks, I believe the key to success is to ensure we provide avenues for them to better the circumstances for themselves. One way to do this is by linking these individuals with education and training opportunities that allow them to get a higher paying job. Programs like the Workforce Credential Grant program that the General Assembly implemented a few years ago is a great example of a program that is doing this. This program covers a large portion of the cost for students that successfully complete a degree or certificate program in a high demand field. I will work to expand these successful programs.
I am a firm believer in our free market system. It provides the best opportunity for every citizen to pursue his or her dreams. Government has a responsibility to establish a level playing field and basic requirements for safety and welfare, but it should not be so intrusive and costly that it stifles the ability of individuals to pursue their dreams.
Ensuring a Quality Education for all Virginians
The Commonwealth consistently has one of the top ranked public education systems in the United States. However, changing technology and workforce needs require us to constantly reevaluate what can be done better. I support the current high school redesign effort to better prepare students for the workforce or higher education upon graduation from high school. While the success of our schools is not based solely on funding, it is an important factor. Since I took office, the General Assembly has invested an additional $1,463 per student annually back into k-12 education. I have supported teacher pay increases and efforts to direct more dollars to the classroom, and will continue to do so.
I believe in accountability for students and teachers, but I also understand that too much standardization and testing can stifle student interest and limit teacher effectiveness. This is why I supported the Standards of Learning Reform legislation in 2014 and will continue to favorably consider other reforms that seek to strike a more appropriate balance.
We are blessed to have local public schools that generally perform above the state-wide averages, but unfortunately some areas of Virginia are not so fortunate. Even in good schools there are students that are not thriving in the traditional learning environment. This is why I have consistently supported and co-patroned legislation that seeks to provide improved opportunities for all students, regardless of income, zip code, or individual learning needs. Among these proposals, I have supported measures to establish more charter schools in Virginia, a full time virtual learning program, a scholarship tax credit program that allows low income individuals to attend private school, and a measure that would empower parents of disabled students to utilize resources that would otherwise be expended on their student in the traditional classroom setting to get the specialized assistance they may need.
Law enforcement must have the tools they need to protect our communities. This starts with ensuring they are fairly compensated for putting themselves in harm’s way day after day. While no amount of pay is adequately sufficient, during the 2017 Session we provided a significant boost to our State Police along with more modest increases for locally supported officers.
I believe redemption and rehabilitation should be the goal for individuals that commit criminal acts. However, victims of crime cannot be forgotten. I support our truth in sentencing laws, as they ensure individuals that commit serious crimes do not get a simple slap on the wrist for their offense. During my service, I have patroned several measures to protect victims and make our communities a safer place to live. Among these are initiatives to expand the Address Confidentiality Program which helps protect victims of domestic violence and the creation of a presumption against granting bail for defendants who threaten a witness. I also sponsored legislation that increases the penalty for soliciting a minor for prostitution, strengthened our texting while driving laws, and ensure defendants that commit heinous crimes post sufficient bond to guarantee they appear in court.
Defending the Second Amendment
As a lifelong sportsman and concealed carry permit holder, I am a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. I have fought attempts to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to use firearms for self-defense or for sporting purposes, and I will always support the rights of innocent citizens to defend themselves and their families from those who would seek to do harm. I will continue to support this fundamental right.
The Right to Life
I am firmly pro-life. I will continue to do everything in my power to prevent our tax money from providing abortions. In cases where a mother chooses to have an abortion, I have and will continue to support efforts that ensure that she is fully aware of the decision she is making and all of the alternative options available to her. I also supported and signed on as a co-patron to the measure which ensures that when abortions are performed, they are performed in a safe, clean environment with all of the proper equipment available.
While there is a need for a safety net to protect the economically disadvantaged from falling into dire conditions, in most cases such entitlement programs should be designed as temporary assistance, rather than long term, which undoubtedly creates a culture of dependence. Furthermore, I support efforts which crack down on abuse, fraud, and unnecessary waste in these programs. I successfully carried a measure which prohibits TANF (welfare) recipients from purchasing inappropriate items with taxpayer dollars, such as alcohol and tobacco products. I intend to continue to pursue reforms such as this that ensure tax dollars are being used for their intended purpose.