U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Democratic challenger Anthony Flaccavento of Abingdon visited with the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke this afternoon to make their case for election.
The two contrasted their views for boosting the 9th District — Griffith by rolling back regulations that he says have restricted job creation, and Flaccavento by creating what he calls a “bottom-up” economy of small and mid-sized businesses through public-private investments in infrastructure.
They were asked a series of questions and each given an opportunity to respond:
With gas prices nearing $5 per gallon in California, do you believe the U.S. can achieve energy independence?
Griffith said the United States is on the verge of it, as it’s sitting on roughly 250 years of coal reserves, is coasting on a natural gas boom and is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia as the number one producer of oil within the next decade with new horizontal drilling technology. But Griffith said the government needs to lift unrealistic regulations. He also said he’s filed a bill to encourage research on the use of algae as a biofuel, saying that universities can discover new fuels “so that after this boom we have another one.”
Flaccavento said that the question of energy efficiency is too often lost in this discussion. He cited businesses such as ACME Panels in Radford for creating jobs while also creating products that can help reduce heating and cooling costs by 50 percent. Flaccavento questioned the pursuit of shale oil, arguing that the new technology uses a gallon of fuel for every 1.2 or 1.3 gallons it produces. He said the U.S. fossil fuel policy should focus on finding clean ways to burn it. And he said the country should ramp up investment in renewables.
Should the government continue to invest in public radio and public television?
Flaccavento said he’s a “strong supporter” of PBS and NPR. He noted that individuals, small businesses and corporate sponsors have stepped up their contributions to those outlets as government support has been cut back. But he said the pressure to eliminate government funding for public broadcasting is “misplaced” as it represents only a small portion of the federal budget. Instead, Flaccavento argued to eliminate subsidies for ethanol, oil and industrial agriculture.
Griffith took what he called a “hybrid” approach, saying that the proliferation of cable TV channels have essentially made PBS redundant. However, he said the same is not true of NPR — it still provides programming that’s not provided elsewhere. So he said he supports cutting government funding to PBS but would preserve it for NPR.
Where do you stand on tax reform, and especially the Fair Tax?
Griffith said he supports Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s bill to scrap the tax code by 2015 and start from scratch. He said the Fair Tax can work “in the right circumstances” but questioned whether it could actually be implemented. Griffith said the Fair Tax would initially create a recession lasting between six months and two years, and he believes there would be “a citizen’s revolt at the ballot box” that would result in the system being repealed before it can be fully implemented. He said he generally supports a tax system that would make it easier to create jobs.
Flaccavento agreed the tax system needs to be reformed. He said he doesn’t support the Fair Tax but a “return to progressive taxation,” which he said has been steadily stripped away over the last 32 years. Flaccavento said taxes need to be simplified and that people should pay the same rate on “wealth” like capital gains and dividends as they do for work.
– Mason Adams