Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello again threw his support behind a basic living wage on March 17, saying it’s a must for all Virginians working full time. Perriello stopped short of saying he would only support creating a blanket $15 minimum wage, and said he would work to set up a system where a full-time worker was able to not just escape poverty, but not be on the edge of poverty.
Perriello said a living wage could involve a straight forward wage increase, but would also require working with the Virginia General Assembly. Republicans control both chambers and have shown little interest in going above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
“If West Virginia can raise the minimum wage and we can’t, there’s something broken in our system,” Perriello said, referencing West Virginia’s increase to $8.75 an hour. “For a lot of the poorer communities that are represented by Republican legislators, that idea of changing a minimum wage to a living wage is life changing.”
Speaking at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Sterling, Perriello contrasted his ideas with the recently released economic plan of Republican frontrunner Ed Gilespie.
“You know what they say, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results,” Perriello said.
Gillespie, a former chairman of the National Republican Committee and 2014 candidate for Senate, has said his plan will bring a “tax cut for everyone.” It calls for a ten percent across-the-board income tax rate cut to be phased in over three years. The plan has drawn widespread support from Republican leadership in the General Assembly, and Gillespie’s campaign said the plan uses approximately 40 percent of $3.4 billion in projected revenue growth for tax relief while preserving $2 billion for investments in the core functions of government.
Perriello said most economic growth in the past few years has been centered on the richest Americans at the expense of the middle and lower classes. He said Gillespie’s plan would continue to benefit a group that least needs the tax break.
“This is pretty much the same plans that bankrupted the federal government, with all the tax cuts to the richest folks and here we see the same thing in Virginia,” Perriello said. “I think that’s a big part of the problem of the Gillespie campaign, which is bringing the worst of Washington politics here to Virginia.”
Perriello said the hallmark of his economic plan is a two-year program of debt free community college for Virginia students. Combined with further support for technical training and apprenticeship program, Perriello said these initiatives are popular across the Commonwealth’s political spectrum and could garner statewide support.
“I think the people I meet with in some of the reddest district in Virginia love the idea,” Perriello said. “It definitely doesn’t fall into red or blue line. I think what we need, as automation and consolidation threaten the workforce, is not only two pathways into the workforce but 12 pathways.”
Perriello said the biggest challenge to his programs, and his top priority, is to end partisan gerrymandering. He said the Commonwealth’s state delegate and senate districts have been rigged by Republicans and result in partisan lawmakers who don’t effectively represent the people of Virginia. As governor, he said he would actively work on a nonpartisan redistricting process, which will come in conjunction with the 2020 census. He said he would veto any redistricting bill that favored one party over another.
Since entering the governor’s race in January of this year, Perriello has been outspoken in his criticism of President Donald Trump and continued to do so March 17 while taking a tour of one of the nation’s largest Mosques. Trump’s travel ban temporarily banning immigrants from a group of predominately Muslim countries drew concerns from many groups in a county with one of the nation’s largest Muslim populations.
“I can assure the kinds of things President Trump is doing undermines our national security, our standing in the world, our ability to conduct diplomacy efforts when he’s using the kind of language and tactis that only help those who want to hurt the United States,” Perriello said.
A former one-term congressman from Virginia’s 5th District, Perriello has championed progressive values. He won election to the House or Representatives in 2008 in a traditionally conservative district but lost his re-election campaign in the Tea Party-lead wave elections in 2010.
Recent polls show Perriello tied with incumbent Lt. Gov Ralph Northam in the Democratic primary. Northam has received endorsements from most establishment Democrats, including incumbent Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Perriello has used his lack of establishment support as a credential in his outsider campaign.
The winner of the June 13 Democratic primary will square off against the winner of the GOP contest between Gillespie, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner. Business owner Denver Riggleman suspended his campaign earlier this week.