Six of the seven GOP gubernatorial candidates met for a debate hosted by the Virginia Federation of Republican Women on Tuesday evening. Candidates answered questions about Dominion voting machines, Second Amendment rights, transportation, and funding law enforcement. Organizers said Pete Snyder had a prior engagement.
Larry O’Connor asked the candidates, “Amazon is king right now in northern Virginia if you didn’t know any better. How will we expect small businesses to survive when government regulations that make it difficult for them are thrown out the window for literally the richest man in the world? How do you plan to protect key real estate in northern Virginia from being swallowed up by one company as well?”
Peter Doran called for an end to Virginia’s income tax. “I live three blocks from the new Amazon HQ. I think that all jobs are important, absolutely,” he said.
He said Democrats have focused on northern Virginia and Virginia Beach and ignored the rest of Virginia, causing a decline in the economy.
He said, “We’re going to change that by phasing out income tax and going to zero percent. This will be a game changer for every business, every self-employed person, every retiree, we are going to unlock the throttle of our economy so we don’t have to rely on just NOVA and Virginia Beach.”
Octavia Johnson said big business and small business needed to be put on two different levels, and said policymakers should attract business to rural Virginia.
“They can’t compete with Amazon. So, we need to put them on different levels to help the small entrepreneur so they can get started, providing what they need. And then let the companies know that Virginia is a great state and we are a big state, let’s offer them other places,” she said. “I mean there’s southwest Virginia. There’s farmland everywhere that somebody can come and put a business. And, you will have better workers because they worked in factories, and if you worked in a factory, guess what? You worked.”
Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) blamed former Terry McAuliffe for focusing on attracting big business while being disinterested in rural Virginia. He called for downsizing state regulatory agencies and reducing regulations on businesses.
“I would recommend we do that with all agencies,” he said. “And there’s small things. If you talk to a lot of businesses, there are probably 50 positions buried in the budget right now from the Department of Labor and [the Department of Environmental Quality] that are gotcha as far as businesses go. And the last thing I would do is get rid of the new Secretary of Labor, which will be nothing more than a millstone around the neck of every small business.”
Sergio De la Peña said lawmakers should limit Amazon and open up the economy.
“Amazon has become the company store. And it’s getting too big,” he said. “Remember the censorship of the president of the United States? Remember who owns the servers? You’ve got a company that owns servers, owns distribution, you can get anything from Amazon, and they have the free reign of doing all kinds of stuff. They can also donate money to all sorts of organizations that are antithetical to the Republican party. It’s time that we start putting limits on their ability to be able to do that.”
Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) criticized subsidies for Amazon, called for transparency in government agencies, and called for an end to corporate income tax.
“We took our taxpayer money and gave millions of dollars [to Amazon] that could have gone to schools, infrastructure, all these things that we talked about tonight. We just gave it to Amazon just like that,” she said. “We need more transparency in our economic development abilities. We don’t need shadow government, we need more accountability.”
She said, “Currently, [Virginia’s corporate income tax] is at six percent. We need to be down, competitive with North Carolina and other states that have phased that out.”
Glenn Youngkin said that the high tax rebates given to Amazon were necessary because Virginia is not an attractive business environment. He said the solution is to make Virginia attractive to businesses. “Virginia is not a good place to do business right now. Our right-to-work status is under threat.”
He said if McAuliffe is elected, he will eliminate right-to-work. “We can kiss our business environment goodbye,” Youngkin said.
He said, “We must win in November, we must get the cost of doing business down so that companies actually want to come, we must get the tax burden on Virginia families down so they’ll stay, and we must create a thriving, rip-roaring economy with more jobs than people can take because they want to be here, not go elsewhere.”
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