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: Patrick A. Hope

District: 47th District

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: I strongly support SALT’s request to annually index TANF increases to reflect the cost of living. Paying for the additional expense will be an area of intense debate. Therefore, I continue to support a thorough examination of the VA Tax Code to ensure fairness and equity for all payers.

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 support a thorough examination of the VA Tax Code to ensure fairness and equity for all payers.  Our tax system is antiquated and regressive and I want to make sure every Virginia pays their fair share.

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: I introduced legislation last session to eliminate the Commission phone companies charge to inmates calling loved ones.  I plan to do so again in the next session.  I also am very supportive of comprehensive and fully funded prisoner re-entry programs.

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: Yes, I support Operation Backpack for TANF Families to give children in the deepest of poverty an even start.

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 strongly support lifting the lifetime ban for convicted drug offenders from receiving TANF benefits. There is no rational reason to keep the ban and doing so not only hurts the offender and probably in the long-run leads to a higher cost. Therefore, I support lifting the ban on ex-drug offenders from receiving TANF aid and further support extending the eligibility of ex-offenders for food stamps to TANF benefits as well.

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: Yes. Tax credits should be targeted at those families who need the relief the most.  In my opinion, this is the most effective way to bring people out of poverty.

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 targeted income credits at low-income Virginians.  This support is notwithstanding the transportation law.  As a general principle, I believe tax policies should be shaped according to need.

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: Yes, I am a very strong proponent of fully funding the State’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, with many of those dollars being diverted to adequately funding a rental assistance pilot.

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: Absolutely and you will recall I spoke numerous times on the House floor during the 2013 session on this at length.  Medicaid expansion is my highest priority.

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

My top priority will always be to push the commonwealth to do more to help those most in need.  Through its family assistance, health care, unemployment and other programs, government already has the tools to respond to Virginians in times of crisis, but we must act with greater speed and determination. Given the economic downturn, the number of our fellow citizens who need help finding work, meeting their mortgage or rent payments, and even putting food on their tables has risen dramatically. Over the coming months, the commonwealth should do everything it can to use federal matching dollars in existing and new programs to help people get back on their feet.   But I’m not satisfied with the state merely being a conduit for federal funds.  We need to make every effort to enhance new revenue to meet these core needs.

Another priority for me is education. I believe that Virginia’s future depends in no small part on how well we prepare the next generation to contribute and lead. Virginia generally is blessed with excellent public schools, community colleges and universities. I am concerned that at the very time we need to be investing in Virginia’s young people, falling state revenues have pushed us to reduce support for education. I’ll continue to fight this kind of shortsightedness. Virginia’s great educational institutions are engines of economic growth. This is not the time to cut back on our support or lower our standards. For Virginia to be well prepared to compete in the future, our schools must be the best they can be.

Working on Arlington’s and Northern Virginia’s growing transportation problem continues to be a top priority. Our county and region are growing every day. Our roads are often clogged and more and more people use Arlington as a pass-through on their way elsewhere. We need to make it easier for people to use public transit, walk and cycle, and make wiser transportation, economic, and environmental choices. While we have the beginnings of a world-class regional transit system, we aren’t there by a long shot. We need to invest more in transit – Metro, regional trains, streetcar lines, rapid and regular bus transit, and better transportation services for the disabled. We also need a strong and safe network of pedestrian and bikeways for those who want to choose people power.

Finally, I’ll work to expand health care coverage in Virginia through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  I currently serve on the Virginia Health Reform Initiative and I will work to ensure we expand access and coverage, ensure better patient outcomes, and launch a health insurance exchange that helps keep costs low.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!