Candidate Survey - 2013

THIS QUESTIONAIRE REQUESTS YOUR POSITIONS ON SALT’S TOP LEGISLATIVE ISSUES FOR 2013-14. Your responses will be shared with our members and others via mailings and our website ( ) as a helpful guide in their choice of candidates. Your answers will not be abbreviated or taken out of context. Please return your answers by August 10th by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thank you for your commitment to public service and for your willingness to share your opinions with SALT.

Candidate: Hung Nguyen

District: 67

1.Inflation Indexing of TANF Benefits is a Fairness Issue: Currently, a family of three in Virginia receives a fifth of the federal poverty level and has seen only one TANF increase since 1985. At $269 a month average for a family Virginia ranks 35th in TANF payments. Indexing would prevent further erosion of recipients’ ability to meet basic needs of children in their own home or in relative care and can be funded from the federal TANF block grant. Shouldn’t Virginia take steps to alleviate poverty and to protect families. Strong families are as important to Virginia’s future as schools and roads. What steps would you support to ensure a meaningful level of time-limited assistance to Virginia’s needy families? Please explain.

ANSWER: It is unreasonable for families living in poverty to make hard decisions between feeding a child and paying for rent or utility. We are our brother's and sister's keeper. I will review the current funding formula to ensure that families and children are protected. I do not believe that TANF - Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is a permanent solution for families. TANF is meant to be a temporary hand up to struggling Virginia families. As such, Virginia needs to provide better opportunities for working families to improve their quality of life. We need to provide more meaningful work and livable wages so families in poverty can help themselves. This is an issue of social justice.

2. Tax & Budget: All Should Pay Their Fair Share. We know from local research across Virginia that the recent State budget cuts have cut into real, quality of life spending by local governments: libraries are closed, police have lost staff positions, teachers have lost their jobs, and class sizes increase for public school students. At the same time, too many (two-thirds) large corporations operating in our State get by with paying very little in corporate income tax due to tax breaks, subsidies, and clever work by their tax lawyers. How will you make sure that individuals and corporations at the upper end of our income scale pay their fair share so that we can avoid painful service cuts in the future?

ANSWER: I will work to close tax loopholes. I will review tax credits and subsidies for reasonableness and to ensure that they are needed to support targeted industries to generate jobs and provide meaningful wages to Virginia families. I will take a ROI - Return on Investment approach to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. All Virginians need to share in the cost of maintaining a dignified and reasonable quality of life. This is an issue of equity and corporate social responsibility.
3. Bring about effective change in the criminal justice system: Those who remain in contact with loved ones on the outside are less likely, studies show, to return to a life of crime after serving their time. So why does Virginia make it so hard for inmates to phone their families? SALT believes that charges should be “just and reasonable”. A small reform, perhaps, but lower rates might help prisoners go straight. What will you do to reform the justice system so communities are safer, victims are respected, and offenders are transformed?

ANSWER: It is not just that inmates pay exorbitant charges to communicate with their families. Regular communication with family support systems may help inmates evaluate their circumstances and reform. Charging inmates rates that is customary in non-incarcerated environments (i.e., what the public gets charge) is reasonable. However, overcharging inmates is not fair nor is it just. I support actions being taken by the Federal Communications Commission to reduce per minute, connection, and other unreasonable charges. This practice of overcharging the underprivileged needs to be changed. This is an issue of social justice.

4. Support of Operation Backpack for TANF Families-- This allowance would permit children living in poverty to acquire the needed school supplies and clothing essential for returning to school & equipping children to learn. Would you support to give children in deepest poverty an even start?

ANSWER: On the premise of the question, I support Operation Backpack for TANF families. I do not know whether such a program is dependent on State funding or a program within the nonprofit community that needs further dissemination and solicitation for donations among the public. A backpack with school supplies affirms a child's place among his/her peers by not setting him/her apart and creating emotional distress by not having basic educational tools and supplies. This is an issue of inclusiveness versus division.

5. Rescind the Federal Lifetime TANF Ban for Ex-Drug Offenders: Lifting the ban eliminates for ex-offenders (whose offense was solely drug possession) the disqualification from receipt of TANF federal transitional assistance needed to care for family members, increases the chances of gainful employment of ex-offenders. To us lifting the ban is a matter of fairness, as it serves to provide basic Re-entry program services that reduce recidivism and save states money. This ban penalizes children of drug felons. Do we want to be a society that requires children to pay for the misdeed(s) of their parents? Do you support extending the eligibility of ex-offenders for food stamps to TANF benefits as well? Please explain

ANSWER: I support re-entry programs that reduces recidivism and promotes and sustains families. Felons who have served their time should be allowed to vote and to participate in programs, such as TANF, that provides resources to families and children. Temporarily providing a helping hand may promote gainful employment. Evaluation criteria and monitoring of the program for possible abuse is needed to ensure active participation and responsibility for improving the home environment. Since this is a Federal Lifetime Ban, I will work with Virginia\'s Federal legislators to propose a solution that does not unfairly penalize children of ex-offenders.

6. Refundable Virginia State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The EITC higher income is pro-work, pro-business because it results in greater productivity and job satisfaction and less worker turnover. It is pro-family as well. SALT supports a Virginia Refundable EITC to enable hard working families to escape poverty. Approximately 570,000 Virginians live below the poverty level. No one working 40 hours a week should be poor. Do you support a refundable State earned income tax credit (EITC) based on 20% of the federal EITC for Virginia low income workers and their families? Yes/No. Please explain

ANSWER: I support the Virginia State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). There are tax credits for successful individuals and corporations who can afford to pay their taxes and their standard of living will not be affected substantially. Working class families need every dollar they earn to support their families. They WILL miss every dollar they do not take home to support their families. Institutional barriers to economic empowerment exist. The disparity between those who can comfortably pay their taxes and those who cannot is wide. If we truly want low-income families to succeed and be financially independent, we need to create an environment that promotes and fosters hard work and the benefits of such labor. This is an issue of economic empowerment.

7. Transportation: The problem SALT sees with the taxes being put in place for funding our transportation needs is that they are regressive, causing low-income Virginians to pay a greater share of their income towards funding transportation. We find it bizarre to burden those with minimum resources for the purpose of making investments in Virginia’s roads. To mitigate the harm, there needs to be steps taken to assuage the pain. SALT recommends a refundable earned income credit or a targeted rebate program. Do you agree with and would you support that approach?

ANSWER: I support a use tax. As a car owner, it is my responsibility to pay taxes on the gas that I use and the road ways on which that I drive. I do not believe that low-income Virginians who are dependent on public transportation should be burdened with taxes that is unfairly placed upon them and further restricts their ability to be economically sufficient. As a legislator, I will evaluate and support options that lifts low-income Virginians up and not keep them down.

8. Housing Trust Fund: Virginia has been identified as the 9th least affordable state in the nation according to the "2013 Out of Reach" report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This standing is based on actual wages and rents in the Commonwealth. Last year, the General Assembly codified a state housing trust fund, joining 45 other states with similar funds, providing one time funding of $8M from the National Mortgage Settlement funds. Given the housing cost burdens faced by a substantial number of households throughout the state, would you support an ongoing source of revenue for the state housing trust fund? This fund would be used to address the significant shortage of safe, decent affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for thousands of low and moderate income families throughout the Commonwealth."

ANSWER: Working class families need affordable housing. I support funding of a Housing Trust Fund. Fairfax County has a Housing Trust Fund. Low-income families and working class families, including teachers and public servants, need homes that they can afford near the neighborhoods in which they work. In addition to an ongoing source of revenue, cultural and environmental change is required. Affordable homes and high-density complexes can be designed and built to blend in with their neighborhoods. As more mix use developments are built, affordable housing units can be a part of the solution. This is an issue of opening up our neighborhoods to welcome the cultural and economic diversity within Northern Virginia.

9. Medicaid Expansion Health Insurance: Expansion for 400,000 low income, uninsured Virginians with federal funding to pay for 100% of the cost for the first 3 years. Expanding Medicaid for a healthy Virginia is the right choice. Do you agree? Explain.

ANSWER: Medicaid expansion provides resources and access to healthcare services. Preventative health care reduces more costly health responses when the uninsured get sick and possibly hospitalized. No program is perfect. It is better to improve a broken system than to wait for the perfect solution. Current Federal funding is available to expand Medicaid. In light of the current economic environment, Virginia should not pass up on available Federal funding. How else will Virginia provide health care to currently uninsured Virginians? Who will pay the health care bills when the uninsured are hospitalized? This is an issue of practicality.

YOUR ISSUES: What are some issues you feel strongly about that you would like to share with your SALT constituents?

Education - I support universal pre-K education to ensure that all children have equal access to quality education and to minimize the achievement gap early on. I support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs which provide the foundations for learning which will prepare them for the NOVA economy. Access to Pre-K education and focus on STEM provides working class families with the tools for their children to succeed and have jobs that will enable upward mobility. Access to Virginia colleges and universities for all Virginians maximizes on the educational investment we make in our students and will provide the Commonwealth with an educated and qualified workforce.

Transportation - I want to get our roads completed in a timely fashion. Shorter construction timelines result in less hours lost in traffic. As a result of less time in traffic, we can spend more time with our families or build and grow our businesses.

Economy - I want to diversify our economy and create more local jobs through private-public partnerships. Increased job opportunities and livable wages will provide economic sustainability and empowerment for Virginia families.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!