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Gilmore Lays Out Priorities for Virginia

Washingtonpost.com staff
Thursday, October 30, 1997

Washingtonpost.com asked the major-party candidates for Virginia governor to fill out questionnaires on key issues. Below are the responses from Republican James S. Gilmore III, Virginia's former attorney general.

Q. What are your priorities for Virginia?

My first priority will be creating the highest quality and safest schools in the nation. I will continue Virginia's tradition of excellence in education by faithfully implementing Virginia's new Standards of Learning tests in the 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 11th grades, ending the practice of social promotion, and reducing class sizes in public elementary grades K-6 through the hiring of 4,000 new teachers.

Second, I will make sure that we continue Virginia's tradition of pro-growth, low-tax economic policies. Cutting the personal property tax on cars and trucks, keeping government's regulatory burden low, and continuing to aggressively recruit businesses to the state, all ensure that we will maintain our competitive advantage over our neighboring states. Eliminating the personal property tax is vital both in reducing the tax burden of Virginians and making Virginia a more attractive place to relocate both businesses and families.

Third, I will make sure that Virginia does not backslide on any of the landmark accomplishments we have established that have made all Virginians safer. I have worked closely with Gov. [George] Allen over the last four years to completely overhaul our criminal justice system, from abolishing parole to reforming juvenile justice. We also enacted a mandatory arrest policy in cases of domestic abuse and passed a constitutional amendment to protect victims rights.

Q. Why are you the best man to carry them out?
I am the best candidate to be Virginia's next governor because I am committed to continuing the initiatives that truly have made Virginia great. Four years ago, welfare rolls were rising. Now, as a result of our welfare reform efforts, we are moving more Virginians from welfare to work. When we took office, violent crime had risen 37 percent in four years. Now, because of our criminal justice reforms, such as abolishing parole, violent crime is down 16 percent in just four years.

Furthermore, 250,000 new jobs have been created in Virginia, and new Standards of Learning and Standards of Accreditation have been implemented to ensure the highest quality in Virginia's public schools. My work as attorney general, fighting for these reforms, as well as my previous work putting criminals behind bars as Henrico County's commonwealth's attorney, make me the most qualified candidate to be the next governor.

Q. What is your position on Virginia's law requiring parental notification if a child seeks an abortion? What changes, if any, would you seek in state law regarding abortions?

I recognize that abortion is an extremely personal decision for most Virginians. I fully support Virginia's new parental notification law sponsored by our Republican candidate for attorney general, state Sen. Mark Earley, and signed by Gov. George Allen during the last General Assembly session. I oppose any effort to weaken this law. Parents should be involved in their minor child's decision on this terribly important matter.

As I have said before, I support parental consent and informed consent with a 24-hour waiting period. I strongly oppose the procedure known as partial-birth abortion, and the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions, except in cases where the mother's life is in jeopardy.

Q. How would you improve the performance of schools in Virginia? What is your position on Gov. Allen's program to raise public school standards?

Virginia's new Standards of Learning are the most rigorous tests in the nation. Since they concentrate on four core subjects, in the 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 11th grades, we are able to monitor children's progress and address the areas in which they need assistance. The tests that are being administered in the 3rd grade will allow us to identify the children that have fallen behind early, before they are promoted.

As attorney general, I listened to the families and teachers of Virginia about their concerns regarding education in Virginia. What I heard was that our schools need to maintain our high standards, but we also need smaller class sizes to give students more individual attention. That is why I will place 4,000 new teachers in Virginia's public elementary schools, about five per school, who can work and provide remedial help for students.

The most immediate problem surrounding higher education is access. Maintaining Virginia's tuition freeze will allow us to be more competitive with neighboring states. Additionally, my New Century Scholars program gives students who meet three criteria a $2,000 scholarship to help defray the enormous cost of obtaining a college degree. The three criteria that I spoke of are:

  • Maintaining a "B" average.
  • Scoring in the top 20 percent of their high school on the Standards of Learning tests.
  • Having no record of disruptive or violent behavior.
These scholarships will be good for any public or private institution of higher learning in Virginia, including vocational and trade schools.

Q. Do you believe that Virginia should have a statewide affirmative action policy on hiring for state jobs or on college admissions? If so, describe the policy you favor.

Although I oppose quotas and other forms of preferences, I am strongly committed to equal opportunity, and I believe that discrimination in any form is wrong. We must realize that there is much that we can-and-should do to reach out and extend opportunities to those who have historically been denied them. As Virginians it benefits all of us to have our entire community working to achieve their goals and dreams. Setting arbitrary numbers for those who can participate, however, does not work towards that end.

We truly must be proactive in our approach to reaching out, and make sure that all Virginians have "a seat at the table." I support the current state policy, that was implemented through executive order by Gov. [Doug] Wilder, and do not believe as my opponent does, that it should be eliminated. Quite simply, it directs that the recruitment of qualified minorities, women, disabled persons and older Virginians be emphasized. At the same time, it does not permit or require the lowering of bona fide job requirements, performance standards or qualifications. I want real results, not just empty rhetoric.

Q. What specific forms of tax relief do you support and why? How would you pay for your program?

I support the type of tax relief that empowers Virginians, by returning to them their hard-earned money. I want to make sure that all Virginians are included in a real tax relief plan.

My opponent's income tax scheme merely serves as a reminder that someone else has the ultimate control over your money. Not only that, it provides no tax relief to almost 50 percent of Northern Virginia families and more than 60 percent of senior citizens.

My plan to eliminate the personal property tax on the first $20,000 in value on cars and trucks will empower all Virginians by giving them more control over their hard-earned money, by returning it directly to them. Virginia is in the enviable position of having surplus revenues. Rather than taxing our citizens on the cars and trucks they drive to work and school, local governments will receive bloc grants from state government in an amount equal to the property tax that they would have collected under the old tax scheme.

My property tax proposal was designed carefully to ensure that we would not have to replace the personal property tax with another tax in order to make up revenue. With a $216 million tax surplus sitting in the bank, and with current revenues growing at 8 percent, there is no credible reason to stand in the way of real tax relief.

Q. Assess the state of the Virginia economy and indicate what you would do to support economic development.

The consolidation of Virginia's vast economic development resources has been an incredible success. As a result, we have seen Virginia through a rather phenomenal economic expansion, that has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As we embark on a new century Virginia is prospering and growing. From small businesses and family farms, to exporters and manufacturers, Virginia is moving forward. The unemployment rate is currently at 4 percent (the lowest it has been in seven years). More than 600 new companies have located in the Commonwealth in the last four years, creating 1,300 new facilities and nearly 250,000 new jobs.

I intend to continue to vigorously attract new businesses to Virginia and we will create at least 250,000 new jobs by the end of my term. I will meet this goal by expanding work force training through Virginia's community college system, continue worker training tax cuts for businesses who pay their employees' tuition at community colleges, protect Virginia's right-to-work laws, fight to provide capital for small and expanding companies, and make sure Virginia remains the "Silicon Dominion" through the expansion of the information technology industries.

Q. How would you make Virginians safer from crime and improve the criminal justice system?

Four years ago, crime and parole rates were surging in Virginia. George Allen and I promised the people of Virginia that we would fix the system-abolish parole, "three-strikes-and-you're-out," truth-in-sentencing, juvenile justice reforms, and the establishment of victims rights panels. We have kept our promises and as a result crime is down. Now that we have fixed the structural and procedural problems of the system, the next step is to tackle the problems in our communities and end the plague of crime, gangs, and drugs.

I have proposed a New Partnership anti-crime plan containing 21 initiatives to make our neighborhoods safer. Some of the major initiatives in the New Partnership plan include closing the revolving door of bail and recognizance for dangerous criminals and drug dealers. We closed the door on parole, now we must do the same on bail. My plan will place stricter restrictions on out-of-state parolees who come into Virginia.

Furthermore, it will increase penalties for gang-related crimes and make it a crime to recruit a young person into a gang, as well as stiffen penalties for drug dealers. I urge everyone to follow the link to my Web page and examine all 21 points of my plan.

Q. For Virginians, the national debate over the future of the tobacco industry involves health issues concerning smoking and economic issues concerning the future of tobacco farmers. How would you address both concerns?

I am committed to protecting our children from using tobacco products. This issue is not about superficial rhetoric or false choices between protecting children and preserving jobs. We can keep tobacco away from children, while at the same time preserving the livelihoods of farmers in Southside, manufacturing workers in Richmond, and dock workers in Hampton Roads.

As attorney general I won passage of Senate Bill 1162, which doubled the fines paid by merchants convicted of selling tobacco to minors. I also pushed House Bill 2350, which made the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board the principle enforcer of the new laws against underage smoking. This legislation guarantees that Virginia's efforts to curb youth smoking are directed where they will be most effective.

It is important to remember that a large part of Virginia's economy. Tobacco is Virginia's leading cash crop, accounting for 25 percent of Virginia's total crop income, and over 35 percent of all exports leaving Virginia's ports. From small family farms in Southside and Southwest, to dockworkers in Hampton Roads, to factory workers in Richmond and around the state, more than 130,000 Virginia families depend on the jobs created by tobacco to put food on their tables and feed their children.

Q. Assess Gov. Allen's record on the environment and indicate any major policy changes that you would make.

As Virginia's attorney general, I collected over $2.5 million in penalties and fines and forced polluters to spend over $700 million to clean up environmental pollution. I assessed the third largest fine ever assessed by the state of Virginia in an environmental enforcement action -- $1.4 million from the Lone Mountain Coal Co. for a coal slurry spill in Southwest Virginia.

I took legal action against Lorton prison for dumping raw sewage into the Occoquan River and obtained a fine as well as an injuction. I forced the federal EPA to stop the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant in Washington, D.C., from polluting the Potomac River.

While fines and penalties are important in providing funds to clean up environmental accidents, I think that it is important that we prevent accidents before they occur. By providing small businesses with low-interest loans to invest in environmentally friendlier technologies and equipment, we can lessen their impacts on our environment.

For the future, I have put forth an 11-page environmental plan called Protecting Virginia's Environment. It includes constructive initiatives such as new pollution prevention programs and expanding the Small Business Compliance Fund to make loans to local businesses.

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