This is Part 3 of a three-part interview summary with
Virginia House Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R, VA-67).
Parts 1 and 2 of FxFC’s interview with incumbent Delegate LeMunyon are available here and here. They summarizes Delegate LeMunyon’s comments about his current campaign for House delegate and how to deal with the overwhelming transportation problems in Northern Virginia. His comments about other issues in Northern Virginia—public education, removal of public statues, the local economy—follow.
Summary of LeMunyon Interview With FxFC
Education Issues7. What position do you and the House Education Committee take regarding transgender and family life education policies in place or being considered for public schools in Virginia?
So far, the General Assembly has not legislated on this issue as it is being evaluated in the court system. The legislature has an unwritten rule not to legislate on issues while litigation is pending. We don’t want to intentionally or inadvertently interfere with a court case. This prevents passing a law and then having the court case nullify it.
I listen to local school leadership to get insights into the best policies and practices. I visit with each one of the high school principals in the 67th District each year. I ask them if there’s some policy or law that interferes with them doing their job. “The answer is invariably ‘No, just let me do my job.’”
Principals tell me that transgender cases are very rare and typically they can make practical accommodations about who goes to what bathroom. One principal of a large school said the issue has arisen only two or three times over 10 years. With rare exceptions, the last thing transgender families want is attention. “They don’t want to bother people, and don’t want people to bother them.” If that’s the way we can solve such issues, that’s the best way.
“The government that governs best, governs closest to the people.”
I listen to what people in charge of the schools tell me. Most would not speak in public about the School Board policy, but my sensing is they would say the School Board is out of line. “Just let me do my job.”
We have had a couple of hearings on this issue where people came to speak on both sides. We must decide what is the right thing to do and who gets to decide. Should we leave it to the courts, or should we clarify the issue with state law? My view is the burden is on the people who want a state law to prove the necessity for it.
8. What do you see as the cause of education costs rising faster than the rate of inflation in Northern VA and across the state?
The disproportionate rise of education costs has resulted from an accumulation of many small decisions over 20-30 years that increased compensation for people after they retired rather than when they are working. Moreover, people are living longer, thereby driving up overall education costs. The pension costs have crept up over time.
While Fairfax County has a generous pension plan, its compensation for mid-career teachers is not so good—which has become a problem.
The school cost increases are driving our property tax increases. You can’t keep increasing education budgets 6% a year while enrollment is going up only 1.5%. That’s the way Metro has been run for 30 years, which has led to where we are. There’s a real relationship between the way Metro and the school systems are run. “You can’t just keep running up your costs.”
School costs are also high because the school system does not contract out school maintenance and food service. Colleges contract out such services, even dormitories. Competition among contractors helps to drive down costs. Moreover, counties can piggyback off local government contracts in other counties to increase their purchasing power and drive down contractor costs.
People can vote with their feet, and people who pay taxes are often the ones most able to do so.
Does anybody track who is moving out of the county and why? We should know that. We want to keep rich people here—to keep up the tax base. Arlington seems to have figured this out. Arlington government officials are not chasing out people with high taxes. Likewise, both Arlington and DC have figured out they must be tough on crime to attract and keep people, especially millennials, who have money.
Public Statues Issue9. What is your position on how public and private organizations should deal with statues remembering Confederates and slave owners?
I put out an email notice asking for comments but have had very few contacts about this subject, even since Charlottesville.
Not all statues are equal. Those in the Manassas Battlefield Park should stay because they point out specific things that happened at that place by certain people, and it would be erasing history to destroy them.
A similar distinction would apply to the statue of General Robert E. Lee in the former House chamber building which commemorates the place where General Lee received his commission to lead the armed forces of the Confederacy. That statue needs to stay because it commemorates an historical moment at that place.
The circumstances are different for statues located downtown.
“Where there are opportunities for discussion is the provision in state law that says local governments can put up monuments to famous people but can’t take them down without someone else’s permission.” This is a “construction of government issue.” States should not be bossing around localities and vice-versa. There may be some opportunities for addressing this in the legislature. I’m sure it will be brought up in the 2018 legislative session.
Returning statue decision-making to localities would give real people in real towns across Virginia the chance to discuss this issue, rather than getting guidance from “talking heads,” state officials, etc. “Let local townspeople figure these things out for themselves.” In a democracy, not everyone will be happy with the decision. Of course, the state must be prepared to accept the outcomes if localities are given such autonomy.
The Governor is establishing, through the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, an investigative commission to study what happened in Charlottesville. See the news release here. The Governor had a conference call with legislators three weeks ago and explained the approach. He highlighted the fact that the majority of the people who came to Charlottesville were outsiders, and federal officials warned local and state officials that these people were coming. It should not have been a surprise to local officials who were so informed.
According to the Governor and his staff on the conference call, they will investigate ANTIFA just as much as the other groups who advocate violence. From my standpoint, who knows how many sides there were. We should be against any side advocating hate and violence.
The first permit issued by the government made sense. It called for a great deal of separation of both groups. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) went to court and argued the separation violates the groups’ constitutional rights. The Court called for a new permit allowing the groups to get much closer to each other.
Based on what the Governor and Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said on the call, the incident was avoidable.
There was very little media coverage of the Governor’s conference call, which was public and not confidential.
We’ll get specifics when the analysis and report are complete and released.
Local Economy10. What must Fairfax County do to revive its economy and reverse the net migration from area?
I asked that question about eight months ago as I’ve noticed a lot of people from the 67th District moving to Loudoun County. It all comes down to limited government, meaning that the government provides essential services only and keeps taxes down. The County Board seems to think taxes should go up 3% every year as part of “life in local government.” That has to change. The county must rescind the BPOL and machine and tool taxes that penalize businesses from coming to Northern Virginia and expanding. The state can provide short-term incentives, but the tax climate and good schools are critical for long-term business interest. Other states don’t have these taxes. The machine and tool tax is like a car tax for factory equipment. It is based on equipment value not on “how far you drive.” This is why car manufacturers don’t locate in Northern Virginia.
Equally bad this way, Fairfax County has the Businesses/Professional/Occupations Licenses (BPOL) tax, which taxes businesses based on revenue not profitability.
We must recognize good financial management is critical to good government. Take Medicaid: my opponent is attacking me for voting against expanding Medicaid. Governor McAuliffe tried to obtain General Assembly authority to expand Medicaid through the veto session, but he did not include a price tag for the expansion’s cost, which is why the General Assembly disapproved his proposal. The states that have expanded Medicaid have been way off in their cost projections. Fairfax County would not be getting a record education allocation if the state had expanded Medicaid.
As stated in the introduction to Part 1 of this series of articles about Delegate LeMunyon:
… Delegate LeMunyon has taken the lead role in demanding the Metro first identify why their costs are way out of line with other comparable transit systems in other cities, then prepare a plan for both improving Metro service and reducing costs. Finally, someone is forcing Metro to face up to its serious shortcomings.
Furthermore, Delegate LeMunyon’s key position on the House Education Committee helped deliver a significant increase in state funding for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) this past year. At the same time, he recognizes the need for FCPS to adopt smart business practices, such as contracting out some services, to stem the tide of disproportionate increases in education costs that are driving up local property taxes.
And, as Chairman of a House Subcommittee on General Laws, Delegate LeMunyon has championed government transparency and accountability over the years and managed to get four bills related to public access signed into law. In fact, he sponsored more bills that were signed into law than any other legislator during the 2017 General Assembly session.
The direct beneficiaries of Delegate LeMunyon’s legislative experience and skills, analytical approach to solving public problems, and all-around smarts are the constituents of House District 67 and the residents of Fairfax County.
As Northern Virginia faces serious transportation, education, and economic challenges, we need our best talent applied to delivering solutions. Delegate LeMunyon has proven himself to be an effective leader in the House of Delegates. This is no time to pin our hopes on an unproven legislative novice. Vote for LeMunyon in the 67 House District race this November.