Here is an edited text of H. Russell Potts Jr.'s opening remarks at the Sept. 13 debate with Democrat Timothy M. Kaine at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, is running for governor as an independent:
In life there are times, my dad used to tell me, there will be some people who will call you your friend and prove it. And I'd like you to know Russ Potts is one of those guys who will call you your friend and will prove it time and again, and has proven it time and again when the chips are down, and I am very proud of that.
As I travel all over Virginia, I talk about the importance of protecting the general fund -- the four core general funds: higher education, public education, health care and public safety. And while my opponents have traveled all over Virginia, with all due respect, they have talked about all the things they were going to do over the next four years if they were elected governor. They have left out one little item called money.
Show me the money. The only way that you get great and the only way that you stay great is to pay for it. And we have to make an incremental investment every year in higher education. And the only candidate for governor of the three who has proven time and again that he is willing to step up and make the tough call regarding higher education is Russ Potts.
I am proud of the chairmanship of the Senate Education and Health Committee. As you know, of those four core services, the only one that isn't covered on my committee is public safety -- and that basically entails most of the revenue, as you well know, from the general fund. And that is why it is so important that we protect the general fund and not let it be infringed upon by new programs that may sound great, that are great sound bites, but absolutely don't make any sense.
We're going to be talking about a lot of education issues, but I'd like to make a couple quick points. You can't run for governor and say that you are going to completely eliminate the car tax of over $2 billion. You can't say that you're going to build new universities. You can't say that you are going to build a new high school in Southside. You can't say that you are going to build a new preschool program, which I think sounds like a great idea, but the price tag is $5 million, and that doesn't include new classrooms. You can't have a new teacher incentive program in Virginia that has no price tag on it and not have an endgame with how you're going to pay for it.
I recently introduced a new important transportation plan that affects every single factor of society. Yes, it affects education because you have to drive to school and drive back home. You drive to work, you drive to church, you drive everywhere in the State of Virginia, and the only candidate that put out a comprehensive transportation plan is Russ Potts. I told you where we were going to build it, how we were going to build it, what we were going to build and how we were going to pay for it -- and I'd like you to focus again and again on more responsibility, not empty promises. [Details of the plan are www.russpotts.com.]
I do want to congratulate again our institutions of higher learning and emphasize a couple of things. Our community colleges need help. There is no question about that, but so does every four-year school. The increasing number of students in Virginia is an imposing challenge. The head count for four-year institutions is 189,000 students this year, and for public two-year institutions, 153,000. That means 342,000 students in our higher education system, and when you add the numbers that we are looking at for the future, the challenge is right around 2011. Doesn't that sound like a long time from now? Well, it's not.