Candidate Survey - 2015

THIS QUESTIONAIRE REQUESTS YOUR POSITIONS ON SALT’S TOP LEGISLATIVE ISSUES FOR 2015-16.  Your responses will be shared with our members and others via mailings and our website (www.s a l 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 21st 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:     VA 47th House of Delegates

1. Closing The Health Care Coverage Gap for Low Income Adults – Virginia has the opportunity to use available federal funding to offer Medicaid health insurance coverage to up to 400,000 very low-income adults.  Most are working in important job sectors such as retail, tourism, and construction, but unable to get affordable health insurance from their jobs or from the federal marketplace.  Federal funding (which pays for 100% of the costs through 2016 and gradually reduces to 90% in 2020) would support Virginia hospitals, create jobs, and save state dollars currently supporting many health programs.  Thirty states (including West Virginia and Kentucky) and D.C. already provide this coverage. Do you support closing the coverage gap?  Please explain.

Absolutely and you will recall I spoke numerous times on the House floor during the 2015 session on this at length. Medicaid expansion is my highest priority.

2. 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.

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.

3. Corporate Tax Breaks:  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?

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.

4. 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 telephone charges should be “just and reasonable”. A small reform, perhaps, but lower rates might help prisoners go straight. Do you support lower phone rate to reestablish contact between offenders and their families and ultimately to reduce recidivism among ex-offenders?

I introduced legislation during previous sessions 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.  

5. Support of Operation Backpack for TANF Families-- 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. Help Give School Supplies and Hope—a simple backpack can change lives. Would you support to give children in deepest poverty an even start?

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

6. 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-drug offenders for food stamps TANF benefits as well? Do you support extending TANF eligibility for ex-drug offenders who return to their families and take responsibilities for their families? Please explain.

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.

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.

Finally, I’ll work to expand health care coverage in Virginia through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act where an additional 400,000 working Virginians would receive coverage.  

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!