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 ( 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: Barbara Favola  

District:     State Senate District 31

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.  

I absolutely support closing the coverage gap.  If more of the uninsured obtained insurance, the cost of healthcare for all us would increase at a much slower rate. Moreover, workers covered under Medicaid Expansion would be more productive at work. Workers could get immediate treatment for a symptom at its first sign and probably miss little to no work versus waiting until a condition becomes so severe that work time is missed and health outcomes are compromised because Emergency Room care is not designed to promote health. I submitted a budget amendment for Medicaid Expansion in 2012. Many amendments were offered to my proposal to gain bipartisan support in the Senate. At the end of the day, politics won over the needs of hard working Virginians and Medicaid Expansion failed to pass. I expect to submit another budget amendment in 2016 to enable Virginia to participate in the Medicaid Expansion Program.

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 successfully submitted a budget amendment in 2014 that allows for a one-time, 2.5 percent increase in TANF payments. This is the first time TANF payments have increased in 15 years. I will continue to advocate for an increase in TANF payments. Substantively and politically, I think the best argument for an increase is to make an analogy with payments to foster families. In the 2016 session, I will test this analogy. However, we might have to target ongoing TANF increases to “kinship” families who are caring for kids who would otherwise be in the foster care system.

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 am a strong believer that corporate tax credits should be reviewed every two years. Frequently, the public benefits that were associated with the credits do not materialize but the corporations continue to enjoy the tax breaks! For example, in the past, I have voted against the $30M tax credit to coal companies and will continue to do so. Coal mining jobs have decreased over the years -not increased, although job creation was the public benefit associated with this credit. Moreover, coal-mining communities, in general, need more safety-net programs but the general fund dollars are not there.

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?

Yes. I absolutely support lower phone rates to help offenders maintain contact with their family members and loved ones. This is a small price for the Commonwealth to pay when you consider the enormous benefit that such contacts provide towards lowering the recidivism rate. It would be helpful if the Governor included this proposal and the accompanying dollars necessary to implement it – in his proposed biennium budget.

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 would support giving TANF children a backpack containing school supplies and essential clothing. 

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 do support this legislative effort and carried a bill to accomplish the above stated goals for three years in a row. One year, the bill actually passed the Senate. However, I think the general belief that punitive measures for first-time drug offenders is a good thing must change before the Opt-Out provision will pass. Moreover, the Opt-Out provision must be part of a larger legislative package designed to lower the recidivism rate and it would help if a bi-partisan taskforce or commission recommended this proposal. I have also heard that State Social Service Directors are not in favor of routine drug testing, a provision that is usually associated with the Opt-Out proposal. Perhaps we should add language to the legislative proposal that states that the ban on TANF would be reinstated if the recipient is convicted of a second drug possession offense. Another element to consider is raising the quantity threshold in a person’s possession before a felony charge applies.

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

I continue to be committed to gun safety issues and preventing campus sexual assaults and incidences of domestic violence. Fortunately, there are organized interest groups and law enforcement associations that are willing to assist me in researching and crafting legislation in these areas. I also hope to work with the ACLU on legislation that would significantly limit the use of solitary confinement in our prisons.

Thank you SALT for your unwavering dedication to eradicating poverty and for reminding us all that every individual should be treated with compassion and dignity. There is no other organized voice as effective as SALT on these issues. Moreover, it is a pleasure working with the SALT team in Richmond.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!