Thursday, October 1, 2015

House Republicans call on Governor McAuliffe to shelve I-66 tolling plan

The following is a release from Speaker Bill Howell's office:

Virginia House of Delegates Republican leadership, members and candidates on Thursday called on Governor Terry McAuliffe to shelve his proposed I-66 tolling plan at a press conference in Falls Church. Republicans outlined their opposition to Governor McAuliffe’s plan to levy new tolls without adding new lane capacity on I-66 and use the toll revenue for low-priority pedestrian and bike improvements.

“No one who has ever driven on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway questions the need for congestion relief, but the proposal put forward by Governor McAuliffe is fundamentally flawed,” said Speaker Howell (R-Stafford). “Charging Virginians for the privilege of sitting in traffic without using that money to add new capacity leaves the real problem – congestion – completely unsolved. Governor McAuliffe should shelve this proposal and work with the General Assembly, local governments, and commuters to create a plan to provide real congestion relief.”

“Virginians want to know that the money they pay in taxes is used wisely,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “Unlike the federal government, the Commonwealth cannot print money and has to balance its budget. We have passed major transportation reforms in the last few years to make sure every penny of transportation money is used as it was meant to be used — to fix transportation. This plan completely misplaces priorities and will fail to provide real congestion relief. The Governor should go back to the drawing board.”

“Traffic congestion is a quality of life issue. Drivers in Northern Virginia spend 82 hours per year sitting in their cars when they could be with their families,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo, (R-Fairfax). “The cost is enormous, more than $4.5 billion per year in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, or about $150 per month per driver. Governor McAuliffe’s plan is all tolls with no congestion relief.”

“Northern Virginia is the economic engine of our Commonwealth. Putting a $17 fee on one of our major commuter routes without using that money to add capacity is a signal to business that not only is Virginia unserious about fixing traffic problems, but also is willing to use commuters — their employees — as an ATM for pet projects,” Hugo said.

“A $17 per-day toll on commuters just trying to get to work would be outrageous even if it was going to double or triple the capacity of I-66 inside the beltway,” said House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas). “Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable. Drivers who use both I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road could be stuck with $9,000 per year in fees. Governor McAuliffe’s plan is a nonstarter.”

“It's a mistake that the McAuliffe Administration continues to pursue this project without providing the public with a congestion reduction impact statement, as required by law. The fact that the Governor seems to believe this plan is somehow exempt or excluded from this requirement is concerning,” said Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax). “The General Assembly acted to require that significant projects be rated according to the their congestion reduction impact because the public has a right to know whether their tax dollars will be spent in ways that actually reduce congestion or squandered on things that might sound good, but don't do any good.”

"One wonders whether the reason this project has not been rated for its congestion reduction impact is because transportation officials already know the answer – not much," said LeMunyon. “This plan needs to be scrapped and replaced with one developed with the goal of creating congestion relief, not Lexus lanes.”

Republican legislators and candidates attending the press conference included Speaker Howell, Majority Leader Cox, Chairman Hugo, Whip Miller, Delegate Dave Albo (R-Fairfax), Delegate Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun), Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), Sean Lenehan (R-46), Chuong Nguyen (R-87), Craig Parisot (R-32), Anna Urman (R-43), Danny Vargas (R-86) and Sang Yi (R-37).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Obenshain to Forgo Governors Race

I am sorry to hear that Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) will not be a candidate for the 2017 governor’s race. Obenshain would have made a very strong candidate.

Some expect this to leave the floor opened to Ed Gillespie. However, don't forget about Pete Snyder. He may get in the race as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

5 Reasons I support Jim Gilmore for President

Last night I was having dinner in Tyson’s Corner with family and before the first course arrived I was asked who I was supporting for President. I said former Virginia Governor James Gilmore and I gave 5 reasons.

1) Former Prosecutor. I hate to say it, but with all the scandals taking place in the executive branch I think a former Henrico county prosecutor is what is needed in Washington. Two examples, the IRS targeting conservative groups in an effort to play politics, and recent revelations that the former Secretary of State was in effect using a Yahoo account to communicate with world leaders etc.

When pressed for the servers, after years of delay, the IRS claimed they crashed, oh, and they then for good measure destroyed them. I guarantee you in a Gilmore administration the “We destroyed the server” defense won’t work. I believe Gilmore will run a tight ship, and lawless behavior in the executive branch will end.

2) Jobs and the economy, growth code. As President of the Free Congress Foundation Gilmore has spent nearly a decade developing tax and regulatory policies to get the economy growing. No other candidate has developed such a well thought out economic program. Gilmore’s policies of a simpler tax code and less regulation is the right direction for our country.

3) National security. Our next President must be ready on day one to keep our country safe. As a former army intelligence officer and chairman of the 911 commission Gilmore understands the threats facing this country as no one else. As President he will understand how our intelligence services work and when briefed he will be able to ask informed nuanced questions. One of Donald Trump's chief apologists Michael Savage claimed last week that while Trump may not have all the answers he will surround himself with good people and get the right answers. I don't agree, you need to have a basic understanding of the subject to know what questions to ask.

4) Electorally strong I subscribe to the theory that Barack Obama won in 2008 because he was in effect the unBush. After 8 years of George W. Bush the American people wanted the opposite. Well, I think Jim Gilmore is the unObama. I believe the serious, and forward-looking Gilmore can appeal to all sections of America. Americans are tired of celebrity and I believe would take well to the substantive Gilmore.

Now there are those who will point to his huge loss in 2008 for the US Senate to Mark Warner as a reason not to support him. But I would point out that 2008 was an historically bad year for Republicans. No Republican would have beaten Warner that year. When he ran for Attorney General and then for Governor he carried all parts of Virginia. I think as the GOP nominee he would be competitive in every region of the country.

5) Executive experience, party leader. The President not only is the head of state he is also the titular head of his political party. Gilmore has the background and the intellectual firepower and temperament to lead the country and the Republican Party. The nation is sharply divided. I think of all the candidates for President Gilmore is the one most able to bring our party and nation together. After 8 years of Obama, I think the White House could do well with less Hollywood and more Richmond.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Virginia: Open for Business With Iran?

The following post is by Michael Thompson who is the Chairman and President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

The Iran nuclear deal will soon become reality even though a bi-partisan majority in Congress opposes it as does a vast majority of the American people.
Significant arms agreements, especially between adversaries on the world stage, have always been by treaty, requiring a two-thirds vote of approval by the U.S. Senate. This has ensured broad support for these critically important arrangements. By executing this Iranian deal as an “agreement” and not a “treaty,” the President avoided that vote requirement.

This unsettling method of codifying what should have been a treaty comes even as the Pew Research Center – no rightwing institution – showed that only 21 percent of Americans support the deal.

There are good reasons Americans oppose this agreement: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said Iran would not comply with the agreement’s provisions on U.N. missile sanctions; Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehqan declared that Iran will not allow inspectors to visit all military sites and then only with permission; and Iran, with a $420 billion GDP, will see an immediate cash inflow of $150 billion that had previously been frozen – funds that will allow this rogue nation to continue supporting terrorist organizations world-wide.

The agreement removes economic sanctions, permitting U.S. corporations to open trade with Iran and operate in that country through foreign subsidiaries. For the first time since the embargo was put in place 20 years ago – an action that brought Iran to the bargaining table in the first place – there will be a wide range of permissible business activities with Iran by U.S. companies. These companies will help Iran increase its economic and military power.

Iran continues to be the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism (providing weapons to and sheltering terrorists, and serving as “banker” for terrorist organizations), has an official policy to destroy Israel, calls America “the great Satin,” holds American hostages (including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian), and oppresses women as well as people of all faiths. This is unacceptable behavior. Those actions and policies should not be encouraged through economic trade between Iran and the U.S.

But declaring the deal an “agreement” and not a “treaty” opens a new possibility for those in Virginia who don’t trust Iran and don’t want to see U.S. companies strengthen this renegade state. You see, a “mere agreement” allows individual states to impose economic sanctions against Iran. Indeed, this is already happening.

Today, 25 states have divested themselves of holdings with companies doing business with Iran, an authority long recognized in law and confirmed by Secretary of State John Kerry. Additionally, the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act gives state and local governments express legal permission to divest from companies doing business with Iran’s energy sector. Many also bar any state and local government contracts with those same companies that do business with Iran.

There is precedent for imposing such sanctions here in Virginia. Governor Doug Wilder in 1990 ordered Virginia state agencies and institutions to divest themselves of business investments in companies doing business in South Africa. By 1991, such divestment actions had also been taken by Fairfax County and the cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville, Hampton, Portsmouth, and Richmond as well as the University of Virginia.

F.W. de Klerk, the last South African president of that apartheid regime, admitted the nation-wide movement to boycott his country had an effect, commenting: "When the divestment movement began, I knew that apartheid had to end."
While 25 states have ended financial dealings with Iran, Virginia is not one of them. The Commonwealth allows state and local investment (including money from multi-billion dollar pension funds and college endowments) in companies doing business with Iran.

Our General Assembly should join 25 other states by disinvesting in any companies that deal with Iran and by refusing to do state business with companies that do the same.

By calling this an agreement instead of a treaty, the President avoided Senatorial ratification but an agreement cannot bind the states as would a treaty. When it comes to investing their own funds, states are free to do as they please. And this being an election year for state legislators makes Virginia a perfect place to give voice again to the people.

In the weeks remaining in this year’s state elections, every candidate for State Senate and Delegate should be asked: “Will you vote to prohibit the investment of Virginia state funds in companies doing business with Iran?” Our voters need to know if those seeking state office want to build Iran’s economic and military power and encourage that country’s terrorist actions. Or will they support Virginia cancelling all dealings with companies doing business with Iran.

Virginia is proud to be open for business.
But not for terrorists. And not for Iran."