Gary Reese, State Delegate, District 67

Gary Reese, State Delegate, District 67

Office Sought: Delegate (67th District)

Party Affiliation: Republican

Previous Offices held: Delegate (67th District) 2002-2004; Fairfax County School Board (Sully District) 1992-2001.

Incumbents: when elected to this position: Nov. 2001.

Occupation: Attorney

Current Employment: Patterson and Reese, Attorneys at Law, 10621 Jones Street, Fairfax, Va. 22030.

Previous Employment: N/A

Education: College of William and Mary (BA-1966); University of Virginia School of Law (JD-1969).

Community ties: Lived in community for 29 years. President of Franklin Middle School PTA, Navy Elementary School PTA Board for 6 years, Chairman of Centreville District School Bond, Vice-Chairman, Fairfax Citizensí Assembly, etc.

Endorsements: Fairfax County Federation of Teachers; Virginia Education Association; AFL-CIO; Small Business Association; RENEW; Firefighters.

Where will I be on election night? Fairfax Republican Party. Cell number: 571-239-8821.

What is your top public-service accomplishment? The advent of the Program Budget for the School Board, and the ìTaxpayersí Budget Bill of Rightsî in the last session of the General Assembly. I am also pleased with the adoption legislation we have achieved.

Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldnít voters blame you for current problems in your district? The "Taxpayers" Budget Bill of Rightsî which mandates that the State Budget will be easily understood by Virginians, will be accountable in terms of goals and objectives and will be placed on the web. I also co-sponsored the Framework for Virginia, which requires the setting of goals and objectives along with strategic planning.

What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them? There are three major problems facing my District: transportation, education funding and taxes. I voted for the Transportation Referendum in the House, and I have supported every transportation initiative, including co-sponsoring a change to the transportation funding formula to include ìcongestionî as a factor and the designation of taxes on insurance premiums for transportation. I will support these again in the next session. I was a co-sponsor of the ìdensityî factor being added to the Local Composite Index, which would have seen tens of millions of additional dollars coming to our schools. And, I support finding additional sources of revenue for our counties to relieve property taxes.

What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office? Having been in public office for 12 years (10 on the Fairfax County School Board), I believe that I bring experience, patience, and knowledge about my District and its problems. I view myself as a problem solver and one who tries to understand the problems of other parts of the State in order to achieve solutions to our problems. The ìmy way, or the highwayî approach simply does not work in the Legislature.

How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent? I have no opponent. If I did I think my opponent would find that after twelve years of public service, I truly know and represent the people of my District.

What is one thing you promise not to do if elected? I will not take my constituents for granted. I have tried very hard to communicate with my constituents whether it be by newspaper, telephone surveys, meetings or mail. My staff and I work very hard on constituent services.

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? We will see revenue gradually increase as the recessionís affects fade. Now is the time to move forward on budget reform. Once revenues increase there will be little impetus for such reform, and we will return to our old ways of spending without accountability or knowledge. Here in Virginia and elsewhere we have seen the consequences of lost trust in government. We must work to restore that trust, beginning with our budget processes and documents.

What specific solutions will you propose for the transportation dilemma? We must assure that the resources placed in the Transportation Trust are used solely for transportation purposes. Without this assurance there will be no additional revenue from the citizens of Virginia, and in the absence of new revenue there is little that can truly be done. We must work with our Congressional delegation to obtain 90% federal funding for extension of rail to Tysons and beyond and down Route 66. Hot lanes, while useful in a few locations, offer little help to the over-all transportation plan and pose many new questions relative to revenue sharing, maintenance and secondary road capacity. Expansion of bus service is needed, particularly for cross-county transportation.

Do local governments have the tools they need to control and guide growth? For the most part local governments have the tools they need, particularly the master-plan and its implementation as well as the use of proffers. Most of the problems counties now face are of their own making and have to do with the failings of their master-plans. Virginia is a strong property rights state and we must take particular care when dealing with development by right.

What are your top environmental priorities? Supervisor Michael Frey has done a good job in providing for preservation of open space in western Fairfax. Air quality tied to automobile emissions remains our largest problem particularly given the impact on federal aid if we are found not to be in compliance. The best solution to automobile emissions is public transportation.

Are residents safe enough? How do public safety officials balance new demands of ìhomeland securityî with other safety and quality-of-life issues? As an open society we must accept some risk and limitations on our ability to police every possible threat. The greatest terrorist threat to my District lies with Dulles Airport, a prime target. The administration at Dulles is working hard to minimize that threat.

Do you have any concerns about civil liberties and public access to information in the wake of the Patriot Act and other responses to September 11? Not at this time.

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? These are mainly local issues to be dealt with by local governments. All workers are important to the local economy. The extent to which a locality wishes to invest in low cost or subsidized housing is unique to each community. Governor Warner has done a good job in extending health care to the children of our low-wage workers. We must always remember that one of the essential purposes of government is to help those who cannot help themselves. Thus, I am proud of the extension of waivers for MR children contained within the last budget.

Should counties have the taxing authority of cities? Yes. It can be argued, however, that counties must also bear the same responsibilities as cities and towns, e. g. maintenance of roads. If counties were granted such authority, there must be some assurance by the urban counties that these additional resources would help relieve the real estate tax burden.

What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for cigarettes? As high as the market can bear. Cigarette smoking is a great health hazard, made more difficult by its addictive qualities. Part of the attraction of smoking in Virginia is our present 2.5 cent tax per pack. It generates only $15 million a year in excise taxes, while our funding needs for schools, Medicare, etc. are unmet.

What is the appropriate state and local tax rate for gasoline? This is also a market related issue. If we were to index fuel taxes to inflation the Stateís 17. 5-cent fuel tax would be raised by 6.5 cents, generating over $300 million statewide, and over $30 million for public transit in Northern Virginia. However, fuel is very costly at this time, and $300 million spread over all of Virginia offers very little relief. Indexing by locality generating the tax would offer some help, but would be extremely difficult to get through the Assembly.

How would you restructure the tax code in Virginia? Since I will be entering only my third year in the House it would be presumptuous of me to attempt to fully answer this question. Surely, however, we must examine all the tax exemptions. We must address the tax rate issues. And, we should address the tobacco tax. But, addressing the tax code, in isolation, is self-defeating. We must first address budget reform; which would then subsequently enable us to address both the expenditure and revenue side of the ledger.

Should income taxes be collected and distributed locally? No. This would truly result in the ìBalkanizationî of Virginia.

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? I believe that we need to give our localities greater flexibility in revenue streams so that they would not have to rely so heavily on real estate. I do not support an artificial 5 percent cap in the absence of giving our counties additional sources of revenue. A mandatory cap proposal, further, will not pass since most jurisdictions downstate do not have our problem (?) of increasing real estate values. The 5 percent cap is, unfortunately, ill considered.

After re-districting, Northern Virginia now has a critical mass in the General Assembly, but so far that doesnít appear to have translated into additional political cloud for the region. Why? Northern Virginiaís delegation has 31% of the votes in the House, far from a critical mass. We must continue to build alliances with other regions, and try to understand the needs of the rest of the state, if we are to have a chance of having Virginia address our needs. We must build trust in order to build alliances. We must also realize that Northern Virginia is not a unified whole. Those of us in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun have different problems than those living in Arlington or Alexandria. Not surprisingly, we have much more in common with the suburbs of Richmond and Hampton Roads, than with our brethren to the east.

Would you favor the repeal of the Dillon Rule? No. The Dillon Rule serves the purpose of creating a certain uniformity of state laws, and this uniformity is needed for the economy.

What is right and wrong with Virginiaís current laws governing abortion? Within the confines of Roe vs. Wade there are few additional changes possible. We do need to see to it that so-called ìabortion clinicsî are safe. And, we need to continue to press for adoption as the alternative to abortion.

Would you support allowing localities to ban weapons from public buildings? I assume you are relating this question to concealed weapon permit holders. If this is the case my answer is in the negative, except for schools.

The state provides only a fraction of the funding for local schools that it should given the requirements under the ìStandards of Quality.î How would you address this? Virginia continues to grapple with the allocation of education costs between local jurisdictions and the State and between local jurisdictions. There is a tension between local school boards and the State. The Legislature is making a very real effort to close the funding gap and reach its goal of 55% funding of the Standards of Quality (SOQs). Perhaps a new source of revenue, e.g. a dramatic increase in tobacco excise taxes, dedicated to the SOQs may be in order. We might also consider requiring consolidation of small, rural school districts in order to save administrative costs and maximize scale for purchasing.

How would you rate the Standards of Learning tests and what improvements still need to be made? I am a strong supporter of the Standards of Learning. These Standards have raised the level of education and enabled us to address the needs of failing schools. I am, however, still bothered by the threat of denying diplomas to students who do not pass the SOLs before consequences are levied on school systems, superintendents, principals and teachers. And, I am not comfortable with the manner in which we have addressed special education needs. Of course, this entire discussion may be made academic by the ìNo Child Left Behindî federal act.

Should local school boards be allowed to ban all weapons on school property? Yes. This poses an interesting issue in rural areas where students bring weapons to school with the intent to leave school to go hunting. Such is not the case here.

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 Virginiaís public colleges and universities? Virginiaís public colleges and universities were once a great bargain. They are no longer a great bargain and that could not be avoided. But we must avoid a decline in the quality of those institutions. Some fair very well on the basis of donations (e.g. UVA last year received $250 million in donations and Virginia Tech also gets more than its share of donations). Others do not have such a base. While additional revenue is needed, particularly in view of the 60,000 new students heading for our colleges and universities over the next several years, so is a willingness to depart from traditional use of valuable classroom space and instructors. Our public colleges and institutionsí use of space is less than 50%. The amount of teaching done by instructors varies greatly and the use of distant learning is limited.