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Votes

Michael Golden, State Delegate, District 41

Office sought: Delegate, 41st House District

Party Affiliation: none (independent)

Previous offices held; please include dates:

Occupation: Appellate Attorney

Current employment:

Latham & Watkins LLP

555 11th St., NW

Suite 1000

Washington, DC 20004

Previous employment:

Judicial Clerk, Honorable Frank Magill, United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit

Education:

Georgetown University Law Center, JD with honors, 1998

University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce, BS in Commerce (concentrations in Finance and Marketing), 1995

I attended Fairfax County Public Schools (elementary through high school) and graduated from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Community ties: I am a member of the Orange Hunt Estates Civic Association and the Orange Hunt Swim Club.  I regularly attend Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield.  I support many area non-profit organizations, including Bethany Christian Services.  I have volunteered for a number of area charities, including work for the Special Olympics, youth tutoring for Martha's Table, and youth supervision for Vacation Bible School.  I provide legal representation to indigent individuals on a pro bono basis (i.e., for free).

ENDORSEMENTS:

Virginia Club for Growth

Virginia Eagle Forum PAC

Virginia Citizens Defense League

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Representing an indigent client in a pro bono matter on appeal after he had lost at trial and winning a key victory for religious freedom.  We challenged an unconstitutional government regulation before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and won.  The court of appeals reversed the trial court's decision, and established a rule that protects fundamental First Amendment rights.  As a result, the government changed the offending regulation.

2. Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldn't voters blame you for current problems in your district?

N/A

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.

1 & 2.  Governmental Spending & Taxes:

State and local spending for non-essential programs is out of control.  The current regime claims it has cut the state budget by $6 billion over the past two years, but the truth is that annual state spending has increased by $1.7 billion over that time.  In fact, in recent memory there has not been a year when total state spending was less than the previous year.  Annual increases far outpace inflation, and the governmental spending spree has outlasted the economic growth of the mid-90s that originally fueled it.  It is time for government to cut the fat and reprioritize the budget to fully fund essential programs.

Real estate taxes are out of control because our area does not get its fair share of state tax dollars.  I will work to eliminate that inequity.  Seniors and others on fixed incomes in my district say they will have to move out of their homes if the sharp real estate tax increases do not abate.  I support reasonable restrictions on real estate tax growth.

My opponent and others want to raise taxes when the budget is "reformed" after the election.  They have suggested raising sales taxes, gasoline taxes, and income taxes.  I will oppose any effort to increase your tax burden under the guise of tax reform.

3.  Transportation:

I support creative and cost-effective solutions to solving the area's transportation problems.  We have the greatest transportation needs in the state, and I will work to get us our fair share of state transportation funding.  We must prevent the government from raiding the Transportation Trust Fund.  I support High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), teleworking incentives, and other innovative methods that relieve congestion for the entire area, not just one narrow corridor.  I will support simple, relatively inexpensive ways to make our existing roads more efficient (improved timing of lights, better maintenance, more rapid removal of obstructions).

4.  Education:

I will work to get us our fair share of education funding.  The current regime supports a funding formula that returns to our area only a small fraction of each tax dollar we send to Richmond, even though we have unique, severe burdens imposed on our local education systems as a result of our diverse population and other special education needs.

5.  Adoption and Foster Care Systems:

Our adoption and foster care systems are inefficient, and children are suffering as a result.  Thousands of children are left in limbo, while capable, caring families' efforts to adopt or foster them are unnecessarily frustrated by ineffective bureaucracy.  I will work to fix the system.

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

I am a dynamic, strong leader and a tireless, effective advocate.  I am a problem solver who knows how to get results by the most effective means.  I have a strong financial background, am fiscally responsible, and will hold the government to the same levels of accountability and responsibility we expect of ourselves and our businesses.  Most important, I will represent the interests of my constituents as a fellow citizen and taxpayer--not as a detached, career politician beholden to special interests.

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

I am dedicated to improving governmental efficiency and accountability without raising taxes, by reprioritizing spending and eliminating frivolous spending.  My opponent is a tax-and-spender with no sense of governmental accountability and efficiency.  I am the only candidate in the race who has pledged not to raise your taxes after elected and who supports reasonable limits on real estate tax growth.  My opponent has said he will raise your taxes and will do nothing to stop the skyrocketing real estate tax increases.  During his past term alone, my opponent sponsored or co-sponsored 11 bills to raise taxes, including six bills to raise the sales tax and a bill proposing a new local income tax.  Only weeks after my constituents overwhelmingly rejected an 11% sales tax increase, my opponent proposed a 22% sales tax increase!  Unlike my opponent, I will not defy my constituents' mandate, and I will not relentlessly work to increase their already high tax burdens.

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

I promise not to increase your tax burden.  And, like many other area legislators, I have put my promise in writing by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.  Unlike my opponent, I will not support any legislation that eliminates or reduces the age deduction for seniors.

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?

Virginia's recent financial data indicated revenue increases between 7% and 8%, which should be fully sufficient to cover responsible budget growth and appropriate funding of essential services.  Moreover, as taxpayers' understanding of the budget improves (as a result of recent legislation requiring greater financial transparency), governmental accountability and efficiency must also improve.  We must eliminate frivolous spending (the Springfield Interchange store in Springfield Mall, which is funded for $6 million over 8 years, gets minimal traffic, and provides the same information one could get for free on the internet, is a perfect example).  We must eliminate overlapping and redundant mandates and expenditures that increase costs without producing positive results.  The impact?  Constituents will get more for their tax dollars, and we can avoid tax increases.

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.

From Question 3 above:  I support creative and cost-effective solutions to solving the area's transportation problems.  We have the greatest transportation needs in the state, and I will work to get us our fair share of state transportation funding.  I support High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and other innovative methods that relieve congestion for the entire area, not just one narrow corridor.  I will support simple, relatively inexpensive ways to make our existing roads more efficient (improved timing of lights, better maintenance, more rapid removal of obstructions).

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? What are the important features of "smart growth," and can more emphasis on smart growth help offset some of the effects of suburban development?

This question has little application to my district (where growth is essentially complete), but I believe Fairfax County has adequate tools to handle growth through its control of the Comprehensive Plan.

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

The transportation solutions I support--HOT, BRT, teleworking incentives, improved efficiency of existing roadways--will reduce congestion, which will reduce air pollution and improve air quality.

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

Compared to the rest of the state and the nation generally, residents in my area are relatively safe.  However, we must be vigilant about public safety concerns, particularly as gang-related activity appears to be increasing in the area, and we must fully fund our police and related public-safety entities.  The challenges presented to us in the post-9/11 environment require us also to be more vigilant with respect to homeland security.  However, this commitment cannot, and must not, strip us of the fundamental liberties and rights we created this country to protect.

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?

Yes; see answer to question 11.

13. Working poor families in Northern Virginia face a daunting cost of 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?

Low-wage workers are, of course, critical to the local economy.  Having grown up in a low-wage household, I know the unique challenges these individuals face.  That is why I oppose any effort to increase their tax burden.  Moreover, I support limiting the growth of real estate taxes (which will make the costs of renting or buying adequate housing more affordable) and reducing or eliminating the sales tax on essential food items.

14. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?

Only to the extent the authority is limited to prohibit increasing the tax burden on individuals and, as a practical matter, will result in the alleviation of other tax burdens (e.g., real estate taxes).

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

This question cannot be answered in isolation and must be considered as a part of tax reform generally--and I will not support any tax reform package that increases the overall tax burden on my constituents.

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

I am the only candidate in this race who opposes increasing the gasoline tax.  Requiring my constituents to pay even more gasoline taxes when they don't get their fair share of state transportation funding already--and the Transportation Trust Fund is routinely raided to pay for non-essential social programs--is simply wrong.  That the gasoline tax is regressive makes it an even worse idea.

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

As numerous financial and economic experts recently recognized, Virginia's relatively strong economic growth over the past two decades (particularly in northern Virginia) is in large part due to the fact that Virginia's tax burdens on individuals and businesses are not as onerous as its neighbors'. In addition to simplifying and clarifying the tax code, any tax reform must maintain a commitment to a low-tax, pro-growth approach. To that end, I would support eliminating the BPOL/gross receipts tax and replacing it with a fair income-based standard, and I would support eliminating the death tax, which cripples many small businesses. Any tax reform must be revenue neutral, at worst, and must apply a fair funding formula so that northern Virginia gets it fair share of state funding for critical needs.

18. Should income taxes be collected and distributed locally?

Your question is not entirely clear.  I do not support an additional local income tax; my opponent supports an additional local income tax.

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.

I support the 5% (or population growth + inflation, whichever is greater) cap.

This question is based on a fallacy.  Economic experts agree that the 5% cap would allow for increased local spending every year (almost $550 million over the next 4 years).  The services we have will still exist, and spending for them will grow each year, just not at the unnecessarily steep rates they have over the past few years.  Of course, there is plenty of waste in the government, and I would be happy to do without the Springfield Interchange store I mentioned in Question 7.

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?

The northern Virginia delegation must work with legislators from areas in similar situations, that face similar problems, to gain the support we need to ensure equitable treatment.  We do not have the critical mass in northern Virginia alone sufficient to produce a fair funding system.

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

No.  It has served Virginia well and is a good check on the power of local governments to burden their citizens.

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

The state's recently passed laws requiring parental notification and prohibiting partial-birth infanticide are changes for the better. We should foster policies recognizing the importance of responsibility and the preciousness of life, not policies encouraging the frequent use of abortion as a casual, routine method of birth control.  Abortion clinics should have to meet the same health and safety standards that other facilities conducting serious surgical procedures must meet--this was the law in Virginia and should be the law again.

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

No.  Allowing localities to impose rules and regulations on fundamental rights creates an inconsistent patchwork that is impossible to navigate.  The state should bear the responsibility of regulating these rights in a consistent manner throughout the Commonwealth, and it should do so consistent with the United States and Virginia 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?

Again, our local school districts must get their fair share of education funding.  I will support revisions to the funding formula that will ensure we get the funding we need to meet the critical, unique challenges our local education system faces.

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

The SOLs provide an objective measure of accountability, and accountability is essential for an effective, efficiently operating school system.  Application of the SOLs has improved over time, which is a positive sign, and performance seems to be improving in some areas.  But we can do better.  We should continually strive to incorporate objective standards like SOLs into the overall instruction plan to ensure educators are teaching the subject, not just the test.

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

See answer to 24.  These issues should be decided by the state in a uniform manner.

27. Characterize the crisis 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.

Virginia's higher education system--both public and private--is a jewel for the Commonwealth.  While the funding situation could certainly be better, I do not believe it is a "crisis," and I have seen no evidence to indicate that the quality of Virginia's colleges and universities is declining.  Nevertheless, we should explore creative solutions to increase funding to improve further the higher education system and reduce the burden on Virginians who attend our state schools.  Private-public partnerships and related incentives for higher education support by the private sector will allow colleges and universities to generate more revenue through voluntary contributions rather than relying on sharp, statewide tax increases on individuals who cannot afford them.  I oppose all efforts to allow illegal aliens to benefit from in-state tuition rates to the detriment of Virginia's citizens.