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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 11:15 a.m. ET

Ask Gov. Kaine

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Tim Kaine
Governor of Virginia
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; 10:15 AM

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was online Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 11:15 a.m. ET to take your questions about his term in office, his State of the Commonwealth speech and his goals for the upcoming year.

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A transcript follows.

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Tim Kaine: Hi folks. Thanks for having me online today.

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Annandale, Va.: Governor Kaine: If the FTA rejects the current proposal for extending Metro to Dulles, can you assure us that you will work to get this critically important project back on track as soon as possible?

Tim Kaine: We believe we have met the FTA criteria and look forward to approval so we can promptly begin rail to Dulles. We can see no reason why the project would be rejected at this point. Under normal conditions, communities often put up twenty to thirty percent of the costs of these transit projects with the federal government picking up the remaining share. In this instance, the local share is more than 2/3 and Congress has already demonstrated that this is a project of national importance by allocating significant budgetary resources. We look forward to starting.

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Alexandria, Va.: What's the status of your early childhood education initiative? Any chance of that passing?

Tim Kaine: We have proposed to increase the number of at-risk kids served by the current state pre-school program from 13,000 to 20,000. We have received very positive comments on the design of our proposal from educators, the business community, local officials, parents and legislators of both parties. While there is much discussion still to take place, we feel that the merits of the proposal will win the day.

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Oakton, Va.: After the past few primaries and having a better look at those running for the Democratic ticket, are you still backing Obama?

Tim Kaine: Yes!

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Vienna, Va.: What can be done to alleviate the significant property tax burdens in Northern Virginia? Wouldn't a local income tax be fairer than punishing local homeowners?

Tim Kaine: I campaigned on the notion that local governments should have additional tools to target tax relief to homeowners. With the support of key northern Virginia legislators (especially Del. Brink and Sen. Whipple), my proposed constitutional amendment to allow localities to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of an owner-occupied home from property taxes passed last year. We think it has a good chance of passing again this year and being before the electorate in a November referendum. I will do what I can to see that it passes.

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Arlington, Va.: How much of a chance do you think the smoking ban has of passing? And if it does pass, when would you estimate that it would take effect? I know I, for one, think it cannot come soon enough.

Tim Kaine: Last year, I amended a smoking-related bill to ban smoking in restaurants statewide and my amendments failed by a narrow margin in the House of Delegates. Many of the delegates who voted against my proposal last year suggested modifications, primarily to exclude outdoor dining places, and said they could vote for a revised bill this year. The public support for these measures continues to grow and that makes me think our chances are much better. Please visit www.governor.virginia.gov/SmokeFreeRestaurants and give us your thoughts.

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Richmond, Va.: What do you think about term limits for Virgina governors? I am not in favor of it. Thanks for doing a great job. You and Mark Warner are the two best Virginia governors in my lifetime.

Tim Kaine: Thanks for your support. I have long supported a two-term governor, but it has been difficult to get legislative support for placing this constitutional change before the voters.

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Alexandria, Va.: When exactly will the abusive driver law be repealed and will it be retroactive?

Tim Kaine: I believe the legislature will follow my suggestion that the abusive driver fees should be repealed. Normally, this kind of legislative action would be implemented on July 1, but if the legislature votes in a super-majority fashion for the repeal there are some circumstances where it can take place immediately. Some of the introduced legislation includes a rebate for those who have been affected already.

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Richmond, Va.: As a state employee, I'm not happy that you are proposing to postpone our raises this year. This will be at least the third time in eight years that state employees have not received a raise. Morale can't get much lower. Tell me why we shouldn't start looking for jobs outside public service.

Tim Kaine: Ultimately, all raises are a function of available revenue. The revenues are going to be too tight in the near term to allow for statewide raises, but I definitely appreciate your concern and that's why I built in raises to begin in July 2009. This would translate into an 11 percent across the board raise during my term as governor, which compares favorably to past history. We will continue to look for ways to serve and reward our hard-working employees. We wouldn't be the best managed state in America if it wasn't for motivated employees who love to serve the public.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Thank you doing this discussion, Governor!

I'm concerned about the construction of the HOT lanes in Virginia as opposed to HOV lanes. The HOT's priority doesn't seem to be about reducing congestion, but about actually getting more cars into the lanes so the private companies can make money.

Those of us who faithfully use public transportation would much rather see them as HOV, and therefore help us get to and from work and home much quicker. The drive seems to get longer each year.

What's your opinion?

Tim Kaine: The proposed HOT lane on the Beltway will add new lanes that can be accessed by 1) buses and other transit vehicles, 2) cars with multiple riders, and 3) people who are willing to pay a toll that depends on time of day. Because the proposal adds significant new lanes to the Beltway, it will reduce congestion. I am particularly excited about how the HOT lanes will expand reliable public transportation options.

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Alexandria, Va.: Thank you for your work to repeal such arcane laws like requiring a woman to take a lie detector test when she's raped. Are there any other proposals to increase protection for domestic violence cases?

Tim Kaine: We have proposed to increase funding for community domestic violence prevention programs and also enhanced funding for collection of evidence to prosecute attackers. We are also working to make sure that restraining orders commonly entered against domestic abusers are immediately entered in state crime databases so that they can be enforced in a reliable way.

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Herndon, Va.: Why have you ignore continued to ignore public sentiment and Virginia Commission on Immigration regarding state wide implementation of the 287(g) program? The program would provide uniformity enforcement measures and ensure Virginia's roads, highways, and communities are not sanctuaries for illegal aliens. It is time Virginia sent a state wide message that it respects the "rule of law."

Tim Kaine: Virginia does respect the rule of law. The Virginia State Police work with the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency every day to target gang activity and arrest and deport people who are not lawfully here. Other significant work is done by our DMV and Department of Corrections. Our Virginia Guard helps patrol the border between Arizona and Mexico. 287g agreements don't enhance enforcement of the immigration laws, but instead take State Police off the roads to do paperwork instead of fight crime.

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Manakin Sabot, Va. : How far has your administration come in reaching your land conservation goal of preserving at least 400,000 acres before the end of your term in Virginia? How is your administration targeting land to preserve to prevent run off into our rivers, streams and lakes from both urban and agricultural/grazing sites? Thank you.

Tim Kaine: I'm at the halfway point in my administration. While we are still collecting some year end numbers, I think we will have conserved about 175,000 acres so far. This is a significant increase over what was being done. Obviously, we need to pick up the pace in the next two years to meet our goal and we're looking at additional strategies to help us get there.

I have to go folks, but thanks for chatting with me today.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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