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Votes

Questionnaire: Patti Morrissey, State Delegate, District 32

Office sought: 32nd District House of Delegates

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Previous offices held; please include dates: N/A

Occupation: National Security Analyst, Department of Defense contractor

Current employment: Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) - work on-site at the Pentagon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Previous employment: ANSER Corp, Defense policy analyst; Legislative Assistant, US House of Representatives; Catholic Charities.

Education: The American University, MA International Affairs, 1989; Cornell University, BS Human Development and Family Studies

Community ties: Soccer coach, Sterling Youth Soccer Association; Vice Chair, Advisory Commission on Youth; Member, Governor's Secure Virginia panel for Emergency Preparedness oversight

ENDORSEMENTS:  The Virginia Education Association, The Loudoun Education Association, The League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

1.    What is your top public-service accomplishment?

The most important public service accomplishment is sitting on the Governor's Secure Virginia Panel, which provides direction and oversight to the Commonwealth's emergency preparedness needs. I am very proud to work to ensure that Virginia is as prepared as possible should there be an emergency.  Another "public" service I am proud of is that I have coached soccer and gymnastics for many years and have helped instill self-esteem, athletic skills and a positive team attitude in hundreds of young children.

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

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.

Loudoun's challenges stem from the rapid rate of growth that we are experiencing.  Our traffic congestion problems have steadily increased, many of our classrooms are overcrowded, and our property taxes are rising.  One major step towards addressing these critical quality-of-life issues is to begin to recoup our tax dollars from Richmond.  Under our current delegate we have slipped from a 33% return to an 18% return on the taxes we send to Richmond.  That difference cost Loudoun taxpayers $68 million this year alone.  My goal is to be an integral part of the debate to make the formula fairer for high-growth areas like Loudoun County.  The crushing budgetary impacts of rapid growth demand that we receive more support from the state government for transportation infrastructure and the public education system.

We can begin to address our rising property taxes by voting to increase the percentage of the mandated Standards of Quality that are funded by the state.  Despite the fact that Richmond only pays for about 32%, our current delegate voted AGAINST increasing that rate to 100% or even 55% of the cost of meeting the SOQs

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

I will bring honesty, integrity and a strong teamwork ethic.  My career has focused on strategic planning to address complex future national security challenges.  I will apply my critical thinking/strategic planning skills to developing policies that address the difficult challenges that the Commonwealth will face in the near future.  I have successfully worked with government entities at the local, state and federal level.  I have written legislation, worked with federal agencies, and responded to constituent problems while working for two US Congressmen.

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

I will bring a determined focus to returning more state dollars to our district and to addressing Northern VA's notorious traffic issues.  I know how to work as a team and will fight for what Loudoun County needs -- more funding to address the critical transportation and education stresses that are the bi-product of rapid growth.  While my opponent has spent his time in Richmond focused on the wrong priorities, I will spend my two months focusing on the quality of life issues that will improve Loudoun County for all of our residents.

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

I will not lose sight of the priorities of residents of Loudoun County.  I will work hard until our needs for more transportation and education dollars are met.

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?

As we work though the reform of the state tax formula we will begin to see that the needs of high-growth areas addressed more fairly. We must increase the rate at which Richmond funds the SOQ's in Loudoun.  Our current delegate refused to vote to increase it to 100% or even 55% despite the fact that we only receive about 32% now.  This is part of the problem that leads Loudoun to receive only 18% of the taxes we send to Richmond and what drives our property taxes steadily up.

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.

The Northern Virginia Delegation must build a strong coalition to push for the funding we need to address our long-term transportation issues.  We must make mass transit the centerpiece of our transportation planning.  We must also work hard to develop the public-private partnerships to fund projects that will make our current road structure more efficient.  Greater use of mass transit will improve air quality as we get more cars off the road.  While we work towards long-term transit solutions we must simultaneously address bottlenecks and problem areas now.  We must work in the short term to ease traffic congestion while continuing to work towards long-term solutions.

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?

State and local governments must work together to address the infrastructure stresses that arise from rapid growth.  As the fastest growing county in Virginia, it cannot stand that Loudoun County receives only 18% of the taxes we send to Richmond.  We are building an average of 4 schools and hiring about 500 new teachers per year due to the rate of growth.  Taxpayers are shouldering that cost through their property taxes.  My opponent refused to vote to increase it to 100% or even 55% despite the fact that we only receive about 32% of funding for the state mandated SOQs.  We must begin to get more from the state to address our rapid growth.  In addition we must ask developers to help pay for the infrastructure that they profit from.

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

We must work to preserve open space, we must address our air quality crisis and we must continue to improve on our water quality standards.  In Loudoun and Northern Virginia these are problems that are tied to our rapid rate of growth.  As we find ways to better manage our growth we can begin to better address these issues.  But my opponent does not wish to manage growth at all; he consistently votes to allow and even encourage sprawl.

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

We have a long way to go to secure our small airports and other vulnerable transportation hubs - using basic force protection measures and operational security.  We cannot continue to be naïve about the potential for future terrorist attacks in the Washington area and I will work hard both as a delegate and as a member of the Governor's Secure Virginia Panel to ensure that we are making necessary investments to protect our residents.   The funding for these emergency preparedness programs is appropriated by the federal government and should have little impact on the state budget if we are aggressively pursuing required resources.  But that means we must have people in our state government who know how to make a strong case to the federal government on Virginia's security needs - something I am thoroughly prepared to do.

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, it is difficult to know what investigations are legally justified and which ones are basically searching for private information on American citizens based on their religious or ethnic heritage and without due cause.   We have to take a closer look at how the Patriot Act is actually being applied and whether law enforcement is violating civil liberties of particular ethnic and religious groups.

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

Yes, this is a big problem for which we need to work closely with the development community and our local and state social service agencies to solve.  Affordable childcare and health care are critical to our lower-income workforce and I will work to find solutions to these shortfalls.

14.    Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?

Loudoun County receives 18% of the taxes we send to Richmond.  Five years ago, we received 33%.  Our property tax rate went up an average of 15.8% this year.  We must reverse this trend caused in part by our current delegate.  Asking for additional taxes when we are not even getting our fair share of the taxes we pay now would be unacceptable.

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

It is difficult to consider raising taxes when 82% of the taxes we already send to Richmond are not being applied to our critical shortfalls in funding to solve transportation problems and public education needs in Loudoun County.  When we already know that so few of our tax dollars will return to us, how could we justify asking Loudoun residents to pay more?  Loudoun County receives 18% of the taxes we send to Richmond.  Five years ago, we received 33%.  Our property tax rate went up an average of 15.8% this year.  We must reverse this trend caused in part by our current delegate.

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

It is difficult to consider raising taxes when 82% of the taxes we already send to Richmond are not being applied to our critical shortfalls in funding to solve transportation problems and public education needs in Loudoun County.  When we already know that so few of our tax dollars will return to us, how could we justify asking Loudoun residents to pay more?  Loudoun County receives 18% of the taxes we send to Richmond.  Five years ago, we received 33%.  Our property tax rate went up an average of 15.8% this year.  We must reverse this trend caused in part by our current delegate.

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

We must make the tax system appropriate for the 21st century economy and infrastructure needs.  As it stands the system is almost a century old.  It should not be the case that Loudoun, the fastest growing county in the state, receives an 18% return on our tax dollar.  We must address this problem through the upcoming process of tax reform and get more money back for Loudoun County.

18. How should income taxes be collected and distributed locally?

It should not be the case that Loudoun, the fastest growing county in the state, receives an 18% return on our tax dollar.  We must ensure that our problems stemming from our rapid rate of growth are addressed.  One step towards this would be increasing the state funding of SOQ's.  Currently, taxpayers are shouldering that cost through their property taxes.  My opponent refused to vote to increase it to 100% or even 55% despite the fact that we only receive about 32% of funding for the state mandated SOQ's.

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.

71% of property taxes go to fund education.  As Delegate, I will fight to get more of our tax dollars back from Richmond so that the local authorities can decrease the property tax rate.  One way to do this is to force the state to provide what it is legally obligated to provide in the form of funding for meeting mandated SOQs for public education.   As it stands this burden has been transferred to the taxpayers due to several votes made by our current delegate from the 32nd District.  Dick Black had two opportunities to force the state to pay its fair share for public education and he voted against both of them - while the state continues to under fund our public schools by over $1 billion.  That shifts the tax burden squarely onto the shoulders of the Loudoun taxpayer.  I don't agree with arbitrarily dictating to the local authorities how they can set the property tax rate, but I know that we must not allow a delegate to make choices that send our property taxes soaring.  We also need to ensure that we are protecting seniors on fixed incomes from being forced out of their homes because of increases in property taxes.

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?

Those in the Northern Virginia Caucus must work together across party lines to capitalize on their new critical mass.  Only by working together will we see increased funding for transportation and education.  Unfortunately, some delegates, such as my opponent do not see fit to participate in these efforts.  Mr. Black rarely attends Northern Virginia Caucus meetings and is not known as someone who participates.  We literally cannot afford to have a renegade in the Northern Virginia Delegation or we will not be successful in securing the funding we need and the localities will continue to be forced to increase property taxes to address the issues we face.

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

The Dillon Rule keeps things simple for businesses.  Without it, business owners would be playing by a completely different set of rules in each locality they did business in.  There could be different taxes, regulations and policies in each county.

22.    What is right and wrong with Virginia's current laws governing abortion?

Would you support any changes?

We must make exceptions for the life and the health of the mother.  To leave a woman incapable of choosing to safeguard her own health is going too far.

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

Yes, except for law enforcement officials.

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 must put Virginia on the path to fully funding of its own mandates.  Governor Warner has begun to do this and I fully support that effort.  My opponent had two opportunities to increase Loudoun's share of state funding from SOQs and voted against it each time.  He had the opportunity to increase funding to 100% and then to 55% but chose not to despite the fact that Loudoun receives only 32% now.  Not only is he not fighting for more funding for Education, he won't even vote for it.  And because the SOQs are mandated by law, their demands must be met and therefore the localities are forced to increase property taxes to pay for it.  Black knew this and placed those votes anyway.  He effectively raised our property taxes.

25.    How would you rate the Standards of Learning tests and what improvements

still need to be made?

Improvements need to be made to specific tests as needed and advised by educators.  I would rate the SOL's as a good measure of student achievement but should not be the only measurement of a student's overall educational success.

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

property?

Yes, except for law enforcement officials.

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.

There is a crisis in higher education in Virginia.  There has been a 22% reduction in government spending on spending on state colleges and universities; tuition for state colleges and universities had an average increase of 15%; and the State Council of Higher Education said that by 2007, 2,265 undergraduate students won't be able to find a seat at one of Virginia's four-year state colleges or universities. That is because expansion and construction needs aren't being met commensurate with population growth in the state.  Not only does my opponent believe that there is no crisis here, in a quote from Washington Post article, Black said that there is still more "wasteful spending to be cut in such areas as higher education".