An Interview with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling

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NOVA Townhall is extremely honored to have had the opportunity for an excusive blogger interview with Bill Bolling, Virginia’s highest elected state Republican and our Lieutenant Governor. Below is a transcript of our questions and the Lieutenant Governor’s response:

NOVA Townhall Interview with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling

In the history of the Commonwealth seven Lieutenant Governors have gone on to become Governor, do you plan to become the eighth?

I have made no secret about the fact that I would like to serve as Governor of Virginia some day. That would be a tremendous honor and privilege. More importantly, I think we need a conservative Governor to restore fiscal discipline to state government, put the taxpayers first, and make certain that we address the many challenges confronting Virginia in the right way. I think I could do that. I’ll do my best for the next four years to do a good job as Lieutenant Governor, and if I do that it may create future opportunities for me. Time will tell.

You signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in 2005 while Jerry Kilgore did not. Do you believe your unwavering conservative stance on taxes was responsible (or at least partially responsible) for the 66,000+ votes you received that Kilgore did not.

The Republican Party has always been the party of lower taxes and limited government. These two important principles go hand in glove. We believe in keeping government small and focused on its core responsibilities, and we understand that in order to do that you have to keep taxes as low as possible. The simple fact is that government will spend every penny you give it and still want more. That’s why it is important for Republican candidates to stand on the side of working Virginians and their families and pursue policies that let them keep more of their hard earned money. I’ve tried to do that throughout my career in state and local government and that approach has served me well. My message on taxes in 2005 was consistent, clear and conservative. I think that was one of the issues that attracted voters to my campaign.

Do you believe that in 2005 the conservative Republican base did not turn out as projected because the Democrats and some moderate/liberal Senate Republicans have managed to blur the distinction between the two parties and thus “damaged the Republican label”? What can be done to reinvigorate the conservative base and draw a clear contrast for the voters?

There were a lot of factors that influenced the outcome of the Governor’s race in 2005. However, it is important to remember that we won two of the three statewide races. Republican voters certainly turned out for me, giving me more votes than any other statewide Republican candidate. I think we also got our fair share of moderate votes and votes from conservative Democrats. Our campaign was successful because we had a clear and consistent conservative message, and we talked about issues that mattered to Virginia’s families. If we keep doing that, and remain true to the principles of government and values we believe in, we will continue to win elections and remain the majority party in Virginia. That’s the kind of leadership Republicans are looking for, but it is also the kind of leadership many other Virginians are looking for.

What do you think of the failure to pass Eminent Domain legislation this session- jeopardizing Virginian’s fundamental property rights?

This was the biggest disappointment of the 2006 legislative session. A fundamental principle of our society has always been the value and protection of private property rights. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Kelo case puts private property rights in jeapordy, and I fear that some local governments will use the new authority that have been given in the wrong way. It is very important for us to plug the holes created by the Kelo decision and make certain that the power of eminent domain in Virginia cannot be used for purposes such as economic development, job creation or the enhancement of a localities tax base. I’m very disappointed that the General Assembly failed to do that.

You have been clear in repeatedly stating the following: “While I agree that we need to dedicate significant additional resources to transportation on an ongoing basis, I remain convinced that this can be accomplished without raising taxes.” What role can you take and are you taking as Lieutenant Governor in the upcoming tax battle to advance this viewpoint?

I have been very clear and consistent in my opposition to higher taxes and I have worked aggressively to communicate to the public why I do not believe that higher taxes are necessary or appropriate. I’ve expressed my views in speeches, in written reports, in op/ed columns, on radio call in shows and every other forum I can get access to. In fact, I’ve recently been publicly criticized by some members of the Senate for my efforts. As Lieutenant Governor I have the right and responsibility to speak out on the important issues facing Virginia and I will continue to do so. Hopefully, that will help influence public attitudes and the ultimate outcome of this debate.

At times you have been criticized in the Virginia “blogosphere” by individuals saying that you are changing your position and trying to moderate your conservative stance for a potential 2009 run for Governor. Some Republican bloggers are arguing that you are losing your relevance and not taking on the leadership of the conservative cause now that you are Lieutenant Governor. How do you respond to this tough criticism and what are you doing to fight for the conservative values you vigorously defended for 10 years in the Virginia Senate?

I really have not heard very many people say this. When they do, it is generally because they don’t fully understand my positions. The fact is that my views on important issues like taxes, state spending, the role and scope of government, the values Virginians believe in, etc., are exactly what they have always been. I know what I believe in and I have consistently fought for it. I will continue to do that. However, it is important for us to look for ways to make our conservative message more relevant to voters by talking about issues they believe in like education, public safety, health care, economic growth and how we can solve our transportation problems without raising taxes. We need to educate voters and help them understand how our conservative approach to these issues is better than the Democrats liberal approach. If we do that I think they will continue to vote for us, not the other side.

What is your position on the proposed compromise floating around the General Assembly that would allow Northern Virginia localities to create unelected bodies that could raise local taxes to pay for transportation?

I would oppose any proposal that would give taxing authority to an unelected body. That flies in the face of the basic principles of a democratic form of government. The only people who should have this power are people who are elected by the voters. It is the process of periodically standing for election that keeps them accountable, and that accountability is an important part of a representative democracy.

Who do you think is going to get the most out of the eventual compromise over the budget, the House or the Senate/Governor?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. This debate will probably be resolved – one way or another – in the next thirty days. Right now I think it could go either way, depending on which side does a better job of remaining firm in their position and effectively communicating their views to the public. It is also possible that some compromise could be developed along the way, but that will be difficult to achieve. It is just all very unpredictable right now.

How do you see rail formulating into the current transportation plan or in the future?

As we look to the future, rail has to be a significant part of any long term transportation plan. We need to enhance and expand our rail network to move cargo and people. However, to do this effectively we have to convince people that forms of mass transit, such as rail, bus rapid transit, etc. is preferable to driving their own cars everywhere. That will require a significant cultural shift, and I’m not sure we are prepared for that yet.

Do you think any of the following parties are willing to push this session to a shutdown of local governments: the House, the Senate, or the Governor? Does this tactic of holding the government hostage over a tax-hike help one side more than the other?

I hope that neither side in this debate would be willing to risk a government shutdown just to raise taxes. That would be very bad public policy for Virginia. Right now, the budgets approved by the Senate and House of Delegates are very close when it comes to funding for important programs like public education, higher education, public safety, health care, mental health, the Chesapeake Bay, state employee pay raises, etc. Agreement on these areas of the budget should not be held up by the ongoing debate over transportation funding. That’s why I have called on the members of the General Assembly to agree on those areas of the budget where agreement can be reached and then continue their discussions on transportation in a way that does not jeopardize funding for other important things. I believe this is the only responsible way to resolve the current budget impasse and leave the door open for further transportation discussions.

There will likely be a vigorous public debate about the Marriage Amendment in the coming months. Do you intend to speak up in favor of it?

Absolutely. I think this is a very important amendment. It is about protecting the sanctity of marriage from activist judges and misguided legislatures in other states. Just because some other state wants to recognize same sex marriages does not mean that we should be forced to do that in Virginia. Until Congress is willing to address this issue on the federal level, we need to put Virginia in the best possible position to defend the sanctity of marriage. This can be accomplished by passing this constitutional amendment. I worked hard to get this amendment passed in the General Assembly and I will actively speak out and campaign in support of its passage this November.

Do you think there will be significant turnover in the Senate over the next few years either through retirement and/or conservative challengers? Do we have a chance of having a Republican Senate that shares the Republican Party’s values anytime soon?

The make up of the Senate will certainly change in the years to come. Some incumbents may consider retirement prior to the 2007 elections, and some incumbents could face reelection challenges. Our goal should be to retain our Republican majority and elect more conservative Republicans. To do this we will have to take advantage of open seat opportunities when they arise, nominate strong candidates to challenge vulnerable Democrats and protect conservative Republican incumbents. That is what I will be working to accomplish over the next 18 months.

Are a majority of the Republican senators really as liberal as Chichester and the rest?

I recognize the frustration that many Republicans have experienced over the past few years in seeing the Senate support higher taxes. However, there is simply an honest disagreement on this issue. I try to respect the right of my colleagues to vote as they see fit on issues like this, and I expect them to respect my right to oppose their position. The fact is that Republicans in the Senate stand united on most issues. Unfortunately, the area of our most prominent disagreement – taxes – is a very important issue to many Republicans, including me. As we look to the future, we need to work to develop common legislative efforts that focus on these areas that unite us. As frustrating as it may be from time to time on the issue of taxes, I assure you that our current Republican majority is far preferable to any Democrat majority you can imagine.

You mentioned your support for possibly creating a voucher in program similar to the TAG grant for undergraduate education in your recent blogger teleconference. Have you taken steps to find a legislator to sponsor such a bill?

Several proposals to implement a meaningful school choice program in Virginia have been introduced in the General Assembly for the past several years. As a member of the Senate I served as a co-patron of this legislation on numerous occasions, and consistently supported its passage. Unfortunately, none of these proposals have been approved. We will continue to look for ways to advance this legislation in the future. However, to be successful school choice needs to be part of a more comprehensive review of Virginia’s system of public education. While I am a strong supporter of public education, I am concerned that we are not providing our children with the education they need to be competitive in the global marketplace of the 21st century. To do this we must look for ways to introduce competition, higher academic standards/accountability and real world skills into the public schools. We also need to make certain that more of our educational dollars are directed to the classroom, as opposed to the central office. Obviously, there are a lot of other things we need to do, like recruiting and retaining the best possible teachers, restoring discipline to the classroom, opening the teaching profession up to career switchers who can bring practical experience to the classroom, enhancing curriculum, etc. This will be a major focus of my office over the next two years.

Have you heard any reports on former Redskin Darrell Green running for the State Senate, originally reported online on the Too Conservative blog? What do you think of his potential candidacy in the 33rd Senate district?

There has been some discussion about the possibility of Darrell Green running for the State Senate in 2007. He recently visited the Capitol to meet with legislators and I had an opportunity to talk with him. Darrell Green has always been interested in giving back to his community, but I don’t know that he has made a final decision about entering the world of politics. That’s a big step, and I’m sure he wants to take the time he needs to make the right choice for himself and his family. If he decides to run, I think a lot of people would be excited about his candidacy.

NOVA Townhall is extremely grateful for the opportunity to interview Lieutenant Governor Bolling and wish him all the best as he serves our great Commonwealth and continues to lead the fight against the unnecessary tax-hike while defending Virginia’s families. We look forward to future interviews with Virginia’s political leaders.

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James Young said:

Great interview, Sophrosyne. I'm jealous.

Sophrosyne said:

Thanks. It really was a fantastic opportunity... the more and more I learn about Bolling the more impressed I become. This man is a real leader for the conservative cause.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man said:

"Do you believe that in 2005 the conservative Republican base did not turn out as projected because the Democrats and some moderate/liberal Senate Republicans have managed to blur the distinction between the two parties and thus “damaged the Republican label”? What can be done to reinvigorate the conservative base and draw a clear contrast for the voters?"

what kind of leading question malarkey... That's the most ridiculous item of the day!

sophmore, you really think it's the **democrats** that "damage the republican label"? Do I need to give you a list of what damages the republican label?

Sophrosyne said:

No I think it is mostly the fault of moderate/liberal Republicans willing to sell out their values and principles. This combined with the Dems attempt to look Republican-Lite (of course only during the election will they promise not to raise taxes and support the Marriage Amendment- they (in this case Kaine) seem to have little trouble casting their promises aside once they are in office) leads to voter confusion and a lack of motivation for principled GOPers.

Anyways... I'd still love to see your "list of damages"... fire away!

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