U.S. Senate hopeful Tim Kaine said the federal government should chip in for the Silver Line Phase 2 — but that the commonwealth also needs to pay a bigger share than the $150 million it has promised to ensure it gets built as scheduled.
"What we are seeing in Washington is an anti-investment mentality," Kaine (D) told a group at AOL's Dulles headquarters Thursday. He said he worked with the Bush and Obama administrations to get $900 million for the first phase and the next phase has centered on who pays for it.
"I believe it is a project of federal significance because it links Dulles with the most important capital city in the world," he said. "But when it comes to the state being a meaningful participant, Virginia has fallen short too. What i will try to do is go in and fight hard for federal support, but make it contingent is the state does the same thing."
The political debate over the project labor agreement for Phase 2 "misses an obvious point," Kaine said, noting that the voluntary PLA for Phase 1 should also be in Phase 2.
Investing in infrastructure was a big topic in the wide-ranging discussion that included questions from the audience on federal spending, growing the economy, same-sex marriage and climate change.
Among the highlights:
• The federal government can learn from Virginia's growth and stability.
"The national economy is no longer shrinking, but growing at a small rate," he said. "Instead of looking to India and others on how to grow the economy, why not look to Virginia?"
Kaine pointed out Virginia's commitment to growing and keeping talent and investing in the infrastructure. He says he knows how to save money while keeping that commitment.
"I had to make massive budget cuts as governor," he said. "We have to make cuts at a national level. I know how to do it. But you cannot cut your way to prosperity. An all-cut approach is a way to get thinner and weaker. The lessons I learned from Virginia: growth strategies work in short term, talent strategies work in long term. None will work if you have people who don't agree."
• Kaine has a plan for bipartisanship if elected to the senate in November. He points out the Senate's current Gang of Six — the bipartisan group working to reduce the federal deficit — as a role model.
"The day I am elected, there will be Republicans elected too," he said. "I will know most of the people elected. I am going to pick the representative elected the same day who I know the best, or whose state similar to Virginia to try to build that relationship strong. They I'll say 'let's make it a gang of eight.' "
• Kaine supports relationship equality and believes man has influenced climate change.
"I have come to believe we should have legal equality and that couple's relationships ought to be treated equally," he said in response to a question about same-sex marriage. "Churches can make their own decisions, but I believe committed couples should be treated exactly the same."
Kaine, who was the governor of Virginia from 2006-10, says he is "an absolute believer" in the science that says humans are affecting climate change. My likely opponent [Republican George Allen] is a skeptic. We have got to figure out a way to go no- or low-carbon. We should be taking subsidies away from the Big 5 oil companies. Wind power, if we set up the right policies, can also boost jobs in manufacturing. We can put incentives in place to make green cheap."
• In balancing the deficit, Washington cannot make giant cuts in defense, Medicare and other areas and leave big line items alone, Kaine said.
In defense savings, Kaine said he would re-examine the overseas base model put in place during the Cold War.
"We still have thousands of troops in Europe," he said. "That reflects an old reality. Let's scale back, and let's use technology and innovation to reduce some manpower needs."
Kaine used the example of an aircraft carrier currently under construction in Newport News that will operate with 1,300 fewer personnel needs and save $5 billion over the life of the carrier.
• Kaine maintained that Social Security is the most successful government program ever put in place and that it should not be privatized.
"In 1930s, before Social Security, more than half the seniors were in poverty," he said. "Social Security was designed to stop that. Only 10 percent today are below the poverty line. Does that mean it can't be touchd or changed? No. We should. I One I favor is adjusting the payroll tax cap. It's $106,000 now. We can raise that. There are ways to adjust."
He also says there are changes to be made to Medicare, such as negotiating with drug companies, that can help keep down costs.
• Kaine was asked why he would want to join the "unhappiness caucus" that is the Senate these days.
Said Kaine: "The lower the congressional approval rating, the more I want to do this job. We can't tolerate the dysfunction. We have got to have a functioning institution."
Kaine says he is an optimist.
"We can get better," he said. "Times are tough. People have concerns. But we can never, ever give into pessimism."
Republican candidate George Allen did a similar Q & A at AOL two weeks ago. to read that coverage.