0
Votes

Chris Braunlich, State Senate, District 36

Office sought: State Senate, 36th District

Party Affiliation: Republican

Previous offices held; please include dates: Member, Fairfax County

School Board, 1996 to present.

Incumbents: when elected to this position:

Occupation: Consultant in Education policy and non-profit

management

Current employment (include name and address of employers):  Largest client is Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

Previous employment: The Center for Education Reform (2000-2001), the Alexis deTocqueville Institution (1998-2000). the National Association of Manufacturers (1983 to 1998); Office of Representative John LeBoutillier (1981-1983);

Education: (please list schools attended, degrees and dates): Ba, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; Courses in Public Administration taken at CW Post College, Westbury, NY; Courses in Business Administration taken at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Community ties: Former PTA Board member; former community association Board member; former "Odyssey of the Mind" coach.

List a few current endorsements you are most proud of:  My wife and children, who have agreed to undergo the tribulations of a political campaign so we can try to make a difference

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Working with principals of schools in my district to secure resources for instructional programs that have improved reading and academic achievement among high poverty student populations and mobilizing public support in an organized way for the school bond referendum.

3. What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them? Describe one challenge (or more) in your district that is different than in other parts of the state.

EDUCATION:  I will work to secure additional funding, but also to ensure that we use what works in teaching children.  TRANSPORTATION:  I will focus on immediate concerns and congestion bottlenecks, while refusing to foster continued "raids" on the Transportation Trust Fund that decrease public

confidence in the actions of government.  We need desperately to revise our transportation funding formula to factor in density, rather than simply miles of highway.  And we need to move towards better planning of public transit to encourage managed growth in and around established transportation centers.

TAXES:  Reforming Virginia's tax code is vital, but we need to

do it in a revenue-neutral manner that ensures the long-range success and recognition of Virginia's changing economy and lowers our reliance on real property taxes.

PUBLIC TRUST:  The results of last year's sales tax referendum, as well as the results of the Alabama and Seattle tax referendum make clear that the public is now in an era of distrust with the politicians who spend their money.  I'll work to restore that trust, in the same way I've worked to ensure that on our school bond referenda, when we say we will complete a project, we do it.

GROWTH:  This issue -- combined with our transportation concerns -- is significantly different than in other parts of the state.  Unmanaged growth leads to the transportation issues we have and has created a "bow wave" of transportation problems (as well as school overcrowding). Local government say they do not have the ability granted from the state to manage growth.  The state should provide it, or empower them with mechanisms to finance the infrastructure that is so desperately needed before large scale projects are completed.

4. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

Having worked in politics and public policy my entire life, I have the skills to help move forward solutions that will help the citizens of the 36th District.

5. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?

As a general rule, she is much more liberal than I am, and I believe I offer a thoughtful and creative conservative response to the challenges we face.

6. What is one thing you promise not to do if elected?

I promise not to ignore community concerns and those of individual citizens.

7. What do you predict for the one-to-two year future of the budget and what adjustments will you propose to prepare for your prediction? What impact is this likely to have on your constituents?

Our budget will be tight for the next year or two, but it seems clear, based on several private and public economic projections that we are just now starting to see the leading edge of a recovery.  Although I will have less than 60 days between the election and my swearing-in, I would want to see the General Assembly continue the work that has begun in eliminating boards and commissions that have been earmarked for sunsetting but never eliminated; improve the collection of accounts receivable (now more than $1.5 billion) by creating an incentive for agencies to collect on debts and outsource collections; reform our methods of college construction that currently cost colleges like George Mason University up to 20 percent more than a similar private building; and review the options for competitively outsourcing state functions that can be done less expensively (i.e., there is now a trial program -- brought forward by employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles -- to "privatize" the DMV). The only effect such proposals would have on constituents would be to provide them a "bigger bang for their buck."

8. What specific solutions will you propose for the transportation dilemma? Please address funding, prioritization, air quality, bus service and other non-rail public transportation solutions, expansion of rail service, and any other possible approach.

Please see answer to Question 3.

9. Do local governments have the tools they need to control and guide growth? How will state and local governments cope with the additional demand for services that comes with additional residential construction? Can more emphasis on smart growth help offset some of the effects of suburban development?

Please see answers to Question 3.

10. What are your top environmental priorities? Please address air quality, water quality, open space, etc.

My top environmental concerns would be passage of a law empowering local governments to better manage growth or finance the infrastructure such growth requires; identify a consistent revenue stream to fund open space preservation and the creation of new and additional incentives to encourage such preservation; and to protect Virginia's scenic assets and historic resources.  We have an obligation to encourage citizens to engage in environmentally-friendly actions without shifting course.  For example, the ability of "hybrid" autos to travel in the HOV lanes encouraged the purchase of those environmentally-friendly vehicles, which helps improve air quality. Now, the state is thinking of taking away that option, which has discouraged citizens from moving toward Hybrid purchases.

11. Are residents safe enough? How do public safety officials balance new demands of "homeland security" with other safety and quality-of-life issues?

As a general rule, I believe local citizens are safe.  Public safety officials must now share -- and absorb -- much more information than in the past, which places a burden on those officials and raises privacy concerns within our domestic sector.

12. Do you have any concerns about civil liberties and public access to information in the wake of the Patriot Act and other responses to Sept. 11?

Given what I know about the Patriot Act, I think there are issues surrounding our ability to preserve security and maintain a free society, and I am concerned that the Patriot Act may push the pendulum a bit too far in one direction.

13. Working poor families in Northern Virginia face a daunting living, with little in the way of affordable housing, health care, child care and transportation. Are low-wage workers important to the local economy? What do you propose to address the needs of these families?

Yes, low-wage workers are important to the local economy and important tothe future of our economy as low-wage jobs often represent the first rung on the ladder of economic success.  Our income tax structure taxes low income workers at a rate that penalizes them from getting onto that rung.  Our "0-$3000" tax bracket was created in 1926 and has never been indexed.  It should be.

14. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?

County and city taxing authority should be equalized.

15. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for cigarettes?

To be determined.

16. What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for gasoline?

To be determined.

17. How would you restructure the tax code in Virginia?

Our tax code should be designed to encourage economic growth and job creation.  Instead, the Estate tax encourages family-owned businesses to relocate outside the state; the BPOL tax on business punishes start-up or

struggling businesses by taxing them whether they make a profit or not; and our individual tax code penalizes low-wage workers who are just getting into the job market.  These should all be changed.

18. Should income taxes be collected and distributed locally?

It does not make sense to set up a dual collection system.  However, we should examine the option of reserving a part of the state income tax for re-distribution back to the locality for application against rising property taxes.

19. What proposals do you have for mitigating the effects of soaring property values and related taxes? Do you endorse the 5 percent cap on property tax increases? If you support a cap on property tax increases, please name at least one service provided by state or local government that you currently use that you would be prepared to live without.

See Question 18. I support the concept of a cap on government growth, but do not believe that the state should impose it on local governments.

20. After redistricting, Northern Virginia now has a critical mass in the General Assembly, but so far that doesn't appear to have translated into additional political clout for the region. Why? What will you do to increase the influence of Northern Virginia in Richmond?

It appears that "critical mass" has not yet taken place.  We need to partner better with other large-scale jurisdictions (i.e., Hampton Roads area). And we also need to have members of the delegation be willing to bend a little when dealing with ideas they may not support, if it will help advance an idea they do support.

21. Would you favor the repeal of the Dillon Rule? Why or Why not?

We clearly need to examine the Dillon Rule's impact on localities.  Its application has inhibited our ability to provide a transportation infrastructure for the residents who live here -- and who drive the Virginia economy.

22. What is right and wrong with Virginia's current laws governing abortion? Would you support any changes?

I believe abortion clinics should be subject to the same health and safety provisions required for any other outpatient clinic.

23. Would you support allowing localities to ban weapons from public buildings?

I believe localities should be allowed to make local safety decisions, providing those decisions are consistent with the Virginia and federal constitutions.

24. The state provides only a fraction of the funding for local

schools that it should given requirements under the "Standards of Quality." How would you address this?

We need to first focus on obtaining the SOQ funding that has been recommended by the State Board of Education.  We should next focus on requiring the state to fund any and all mandates required by the state on local jurisdictions.

25. How would you rate the Standards of Learning tests and what improvements still need to be made?

I would rate the Standards of Learning as among the best in the nation, and the improvement they have forced in numerous school divisions (including our own among poorer schools) proves this out.  Some years ago, I advocated that the graduation requirements should be aligned with requirements on schools -- that is, they should not kick in until 2007, when the students involved would have had the full benefit of the SOLs.  I still take that position.

26. Should local school boards be allowed to ban all weapons on school property?

Yes.

27. Characterize the financial situation in Virginia institutions of higher learning and what efforts you recommend in the General Assembly to shore up the quality of Virginia's public colleges and universities. Construction requirements on state colleges have increased the cost of construction by up to 20%, and this should be reformed immediately.  By every independent analysis, the salaries of our college professors suffer in comparison to their peer group in surrounding states, and this should be corrected or we will continue to suffer from a "brain drain" in Virginia. The unique challenges of George Mason University (cost of living, demographics of students, etc.) are not appreciated by the rest of the state, and this gem in Northern Virginia needs a leader to help fight its battles in Richmond.