Each year right before and into the early days of session, I conduct a pre-session survey to take the pulse of the 26th district. Today I'd like to share some of the results with you.
TRANSPORTATION -- I asked if you supported amending the Constitution of Virginia to ensure that revenues designated for the state's Transportation Trust Fund can only be spent on transportation projects, and a full 84% of you said yes.
Given a number of options for funding transportation, 81% believed we could do more to reform and streamline VDOT, 52% wanted to pursue more public-private partnerships, and 33% support reprioritizing state funding from other budget areas to transportation, while raising the gas tax and introducing variable tolling each receive support from 26% of respondents.
ABC -- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of you support ABC privatization, and I was pleasantly surprised to find 82% support for my proposal to require parties to pay the costs of holding primaries.
GUNS -- Interestingly, on guns, 45% of you are satisfied that Virginia currently strikes the right balance, with 29% favoring fewer restrictions and 24% backing more gun laws.
You were significantly more united in support of eminent domain reform (82% in favor), releasing criminal aliens to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after they have served their sentence (89% support), allowing exploration for natural gas off the coast of Virginia (80% backing), and requiring abortion clinics to operate under the same health and safety standards as other health care facilities (93% in favor).
EDUCATION -- Asked to select all proposals for improving the quality of education in Virginia which you supported, vast majorities supported expanding our charter school programs, merit pay for teachers, and greater local discretion in spending state education dollars, while just about half of respondents support tax credit-based school choice scholarships, extending the school year, and increasing state spending on public education. (Just to be clear, I do not mean that half of you support all three of those proposals, but that each enjoyed the support of about half of respondents.)
HEALTH CARE -- Just under three-quarters of you would support developing an alternative to Medicaid so long as existing enrollees would still be covered and the state would realize savings, and two-thirds of you back reductions to the corporate income tax to attract new industries and encourage economic and job growth.
Asked whether any health care exchange Virginia may be required to operate pursuant to the federal health care bill should cover elective abortions, 72% of you said no, with 18% supporting coverage for elective abortions.
GAMBLING -- Fifty-six percent of you oppose allowing video slots, poker, and other forms of video gambling, into Virginia as "sweepstakes stores," with 23% supporting such machines in charitable establishments only and a further 20% supporting allowing such establishments to operate independently.
TRIGGERMAN -- Sixty-two percent of you support closing the "triggerman loophole" for accessories who shared the willful, deliberate, and premeditated intent to commit capital murder, with another 6% backing it if limited, as this year's legislation is, to cases of accessories to a murder committed in the commission of a rape who were shared willful, deliberate, and premeditated intent.
VRS -- Finally, with the Virginia Retirement System pension plan for state employees facing rapidly rising liabilities, I asked if the Commonwealth should phase out the current defined benefit (pension) package in favor of a defined contribution plan similar to the 401(K) plans found in the private sector. Eighty percent of you support this, but a narrow majority of you (53% of those supporting a change) want any change to apply exclusively to new employees.
To all of you who took my survey, thank you! I know it's by no means a scientific survey, but it's still helpful to hear about your priorities in this way - and I especially appreciate the many comments left for me, whether to express an idea or concern or just to voice a word of encouragement.
If you still wish to take the survey, I haven't shut it down yet, and I'm always glad to hear from more of my constituents and friends! Click here to take the survey now.
With best regards,
Mark D. Obenshain
Virginia State Senator