State Sen. Bill Bolling (R-4), Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, and Leslie Byrne, Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, both have the same issues on their radar screen, but with different ideas about the best way to handle them.
Bolling thinks that developing a transportation system for the 21st century is the most important issue facing Virginia because it is a problem that affects many aspects — from economic development to the quality of life. He has a plan to get more money for transportation; he also thinks that the transportation trust fund needs to be protected and that there needs to be more public-private partnerships.
Byrne believes that land use is key to solving the transportation problem.
“How we grow determines the infrastructure we need,” she said. “We’ve got to start looking at what we need to do and how we’re going to pay for it. We can’t pave our way out of problems — we need to look at how we grow.”
She would like to see a Rail Authority established and expand the use of long-haul rail which would reduce the amount of trucks on Virginia interstate highways.
REGARDING EDUCATION, Bolling believes in merit-based pay increases for Virginia teachers.
“My wife was a former teacher and we need to make efforts to move Virginia teachers closer to the national average. Better teachers make for the best educational opportunities,” he said. “We need better pay for better teachers.”
Bolling also advocates for higher education and would like to see the system fully funded. He said that it is now underfunded by $200 million, which has caused 40-60 percent tuition increases and forced colleges to admit more out-of-state students, leaving fewer spaces for Virginia students.
Byrne said, “Everybody believes that education is key to economic opportunity and want their children to go as far as they can.”
However, the numbers show that 30 percent of ninth graders in Virginia do not graduate; in Norfolk that rate is 48 percent. As such, she would like to see more focus on career training in high schools so that these students can learn a trade and make a living.
BOLLING WOULD like to maintain and strengthen the pro-business environment in Virginia. He has been endorsed by Va. FREE (Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education, Inc.) and National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).
Both Bolling and Byrne think that the environment is important. Bolling said that he has been a leading advocate to preserve and protect resources in the future. Byrne is deeply concerned because half of Virginia’s streams are polluted and one-third of the Chesapeake Bay is a dead zone.
“We can’t leave this kind of legacy to our children,” she said. “We have to take meaningful steps now.”
She proposed using private/public partnerships and federal dollars to start amassing a huge amount of money to take care of the problem.
Both Bolling and Byrne think the U.S. Supreme Court eminent domain decision was bad, with Byrne going so far as to say, “It was a bone-head thing and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen in Virginia.”
Bolling said, “It was the worse decision the Supreme Court has ever made, and puts the fundamental right of private property at risk. We are at serious jeopardy and need to close the holes. I have introduced and supported legislation to tighten the definition of public use, not enabling government to use private property for profit.”
ON THE ISSUE of health care, Bolling wants to reform Virginia’s Medicaid program and make insurance affordable for small businesses. Byrne went one step further by proposing that Virginia look into opening up the state employee insurance program for small businesses. She also advocates the use of a prescription buying group, where the Commonwealth negotiates with drug companies on prices. Byrne believes that this can yield a 25-30 percent reduction.
Bolling is concerned about public safety and plans to introduce a series of initiatives to reduce gang violence; impose severe penalties for gang-related crimes and put more money towards law enforcement.
Byrne said, “If they break the law, they need to be punished.”
She advocates tattoo removal programs for gang members who wish to remove themselves from the group and preventive measures such as after-school programs.
On a local level, Bolling would like to see a 5 percent cap on real estate taxes and a 20 percent set-aside for low and middle-income seniors.
Bolling closed by saying, “There’s no place I’d rather be than the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Byrne said, “We’re called the Commonwealth because we lift each other up and are responsible and accountable to each other.”
Bolling represents the Fourth Senatorial District in the Virginia State Senate. Bolling was elected to the Senate in November of 1995 and took office in January of 1996. Prior to his election to the Senate in 1995, Bolling served as a member and chairman of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors. Bolling, his wife, Jean Ann, and sons Matthew and Kevin, are residents of Mechanicsville in Hanover County. They are members of Shady Grove United Methodist Church, and are involved in a number of other civic organizations. For more information, visit www.billbolling.com.
Byrne was elected to the Virginia State Senate in 1999 to represent the 34th District; she completed her term in 2003.
Before her election to the State Senate, she spent three years working for the federal government. In 1992, she was elected to Congress as the first representative from Virginia's 11th district and as the first woman ever elected to Congress from Virginia.
Before going to Congress, Byrne was elected four times to the Virginia House of Delegates, and served from 1986 through 1992. For more information visit www.lesliebyrne.org.