US Senator Meets With Loudoun Business and Community Leaders

US Senator Meets With Loudoun Business and Community Leaders
United States Sen. Tim Kaine (center), met with business and community leaders Aug. 31 during a round-table discussion sponsored by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.

With the federal budget set to expire Sept. 30, the words “government shutdown” have already been heard from the White House and Capitol Hill.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) told a group of Loudoun County community leaders Thursday that a shutdown is highly unlikely.

“I don’t see it happening,” said during his opening points at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce round-table. “I think it is much more likely that we will reach a three-month continuation agreement and get a final budget done by December.”

The budget was one of three main issues Kaine highlighted before taking questions from attendees. The other two were tax reform and health care.

“There are no guarantees,” Kaine said about the need to at least raise the debt ceiling by the end of September to avoid an event like the two-week paralysis in October 2013. “The last shutdown was debilitating. It was disruptive and it was very bad for morale.”

Kaine said one of the main roadblocks to a budget agreement are the cuts proposed by President Trump.

“For example, this budget calls for taking $800 billion out of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration),” he said. “Well, right now we are dealing with Harvey. We’re not going to do that.”

With health care, Kaine said he had opposed the attempt to completely repeal Obamacare but agrees work needs to be done on the country’s health care system and funding.

“Compared to other countries, we spend way too much when you look at the percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” Kaine said. “We spend about 19 to 20 percent of our GDP, and I think the next closest is Switzerland at 11 percent.

“The problem is our system pays for procedures instead of outcomes and the payee system is unnecessarily complicated. But I don’t think the right approach is another big bill or the reversal of the existing big bill. We need to find good ideas, debate and work on them individually and fix the system one piece at a time.”

Kaine said tax reform is possible during Trump’s tenure because both sides agree a fix is needed. The problem, he said, is in the “how.”

“The president issued a paper last week stating he wants to make the tax code simple, easy and fair,” Kaine said. “I think everyone would agree on that. But we need to find agreement on how to get there.”

Kaine said one part of tax reform that shares bi-partisan support is a “tax holiday” ­ giving tax incentives to companies that move investments from offshore back to the United States. He also agrees that American corporations pay a higher tax rate than their overseas competitors, which is a disincentive.

“But with a lot of small business and LLCs paying the individual tax rate, you can’t just look at the corporate tax code without also taking a look at the individual rate,” he said.

One of the last questions Kaine fielded was pointed: “Is the gridlock in Washington real, or is it perception?”

“There is more cooperation that you know about but much less than there should be,” Kaine said. “Part of the perception problem is that cooperation isn’t newsworthy. Conflict is much more interesting.

“But on the big issues, we need to do a better job. We need to show people that we can work together to solve the larger problems facing this country.”

After the round-table discussion, Kaine was scheduled to tour Historic Downtown Leesburg with Mayor Kelly Burk and business and community leaders Thursday afternoon.

Joseph Dill