Below are Mr. Kaine's
responses to a questionnaire submitted to Mr. Kaine.
Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs
Candidate for Governor Questionnaire
Last Session, there were several Bills introduced to increase the yearly multiplier (from 1.7 to 2.5-2.7) for Law Enforcement Officers under the Virginia State Retirement System. There were other Bills introduced that would change the current PLOP plan to a more traditional DROP plan similar to others across the nation, as well as many in Virginia that are not in the VRS. This was not the first Session where Bills similar to these were defeated. VRS has routinely been rated as one of top 5 State Retirement Systems in the Nation when looking at its assets, but when comparing benefits it generally has been rated 47th to 49th. Law Enforcement Agencies throughout the Commonwealth are having problems hiring and retaining quality officers. The lack of competitive salary and benefits are one of the primary reasons for this problem.
Question: Would you support enhancing VRS retirement benefits for both State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies? As Governor what would you do to enable these changes to occur, in light of them being defeated year after year?
Yes. I believe that the key to keeping our communities safe is to ensure that we have enough law enforcement personnel to get the job done. As the job market continues to grow, we need to make the law enforcement profession more attractive to recruit new officers and retain existing ones. A key to reaching this goal is to enhance retirement benefits, and I support increasing the retirement multiplier for law enforcement personnel. I believe that I am uniquely positioned to make this a reality based on my history of bringing people together to forge political consensus and get things done. What we cannot afford is a rubber-stamp for the legislature.
In 1998, two firefighters from Chesapeake were killed while battling a horrific fire. Within 2 weeks of their deaths, the City of Chesapeake notified their widows the city was cutting off all insurance for the fallen firefighterís families.
The Virginia Professional Fire fighters worked with the General Assembly over the year to ensure fallen firefighters and police officers families would be taken care of in the event they were killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. This Act came to be known as the Line of Duty Act.
In 2005 legislation was introduced that would change the funding for the Line of Duty Act; the effect of which would leave thousands of families to fend for themselves when a police officer or firefighter is killed or permanently disabled while performing their duty to the citizens of the Commonwealth.
VCOPS is committed to protecting its members and their families. We are adamantly opposed to changing the Line of Duty Act in any form that reduces benefits for the families of fallen police and firefighters.
Question: As Governor would you go on record as opposing any legislation that adversely affects the benefits provided in the Line of Duty Act?
Yes, I will work to protect the integrity of the Line of Duty Act.
HR 2822, titled the "Public Safety Tax Cut Act" is legislation that if passed and signed into law by the President, will provide long-overdue federal income tax relief to all full-time police and fire professionals in this country. The bill will allow police officers and firefighters to take a $1000 credit on their individual income tax returns. Rep. Ron Paul states: "Relieving public safety officers of the enormous tax burden they bear should be a top priority of every congressman and senator. There is absolutely no justification, practical or constitutional, for imposing heavy taxes on those who risk the most for the safety of Americans. These professional public safety officers put their lives on the line each and every day, and I think we all agree that there is no way to properly compensate them for the fabulous services they provide. In America we have a tradition of local law enforcement and public safety provision. So, while it is not the role of our federal government to increase the salaries of these, it certainly is within our authority to increase their take-home pay by reducing the amount of money that we take from their pockets via federal taxation."
Question: If similar legislation at the State level were introduced, would you support it?
I would be inclined to support targeted tax relief for law enforcement personnel and enact such legislation in a fiscally responsible manner. I have already proposed a special Governorís Scholarship for those who want to serve their communities as law enforcement officers, and I am open to considering more incentives in the areas of tax policy and housing.
While employed, most localities provide a portion or all of health insurance premiums as a benefit to employees. When employees retire this benefit stops. Public safety officers because of the nature of their work usually retire before Medicare benefits take effect. In addition, because of their professions, many have significant health care needs resulting from years of working in dangerous, stressful environments. With the soaring cost of health care, more and more of the pensions of retired public safety officers are reduced by the rising costs of insurance premiums. These premiums compounded with the rise in prescriptions make it more and more difficult for retirees to afford adequate health care insurance.
There is federal legislation being sponsored by two Virginia House of Representative members that allow retirees to deduct the first $5,000.00 from their federal income before taxes for health insurance plans. The Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs would like to see legislation passed in the General Assembly that would allow the same deduction from state taxes, should the sponsored bill become federal law.
Question: As Governor would you support this legislation if introduced in the General Assembly?
Yes. The job of law enforcement personnel is more physically, emotionally and psychologically taxing than most other professions and we therefore have an obligation to ensure adequate health benefits for law enforcement.
The Public Safety Officers Benefit is given to the families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty to help offset costs and to help a grieving family that may have lost a steady income provider. We are asking the General Assembly to increase the amount from seventy-five thousand dollars to one hundred thousand dollars.
Question: As Governor would you support legislation to increase the line of duty death benefit for public safety officers?
Yes. We must keep the faith with law enforcement who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our communities safe and ensure that we take care of the families of those who have fallen in the line of duty.
Virginia currently faces challenges in many different areas, i.e. road improvements, education, Homeland Security issues, Health issues, quality of life issues and local Public Safety issues. The challenge is to adequately fund all theses areas while maintaining our current low tax rate.
Question: As Governor, how would you meet this challenge and ensure Public Safety receives all the funding necessary to keep the Commonwealth one of the safest places to live in our country?
Governors have to make difficult choices with limited resources. Leadership is about having the right priorities and the courage to act on those priorities. I was proud to work with Governor Warner to forge last yearís bipartisan budget reform, which not only restored our fiscal footing, but also invested in our top priorities - education, transportation, and public safety. Because of responsible budgeting, the 2004-2006 budget provided an increase of over $114 million in funding for initiatives that made our communities safer. We were able to secure funds for competitive salaries for State Police, Capitol Police, deputy Sheriffs, and judges, and funding for 100 new correctional officers. I want to be clear Ė if opponents of budget reform had had their way, these investments would not have been possible. You canít be cheap on crime if you are going to be tough on crime.
I have a proven record of supporting law enforcement, ensuring that they have the tools they need to keep themselves and our communities safe, and of fighting crime as a Mayor and Lt. Governor. When I became a Richmond city councilman, the city had the second-highest homicide rate in the country. We took on the toughest crime problem in the state and helped cut the cityís homicide rate in half.
As Governor, I will bring the same sense of fiscal responsibility and priorities that allowed us to make an historic investment in public safety this past year to future budgets. In addition to the measures outlined above to help recruit and retain law enforcement personnel, I will work to ensure that they have the emergency response tools they need, including biohazard suits, communications equipment, and anti-radiation medicine.
I will strictly enforce existing penalties for violent criminals. I will also strengthen penalties by restoring funding for Project Exile, which maximizes the punishment of criminals who commit crimes with guns. I will also implement a "Juvenile Exile" program that toughens state law against repeat juvenile offenders.
We also need to overhaul the sexual offender registry database by requiring that the registry website include an annually updated photograph of the offender, information on the offenderís vehicle, and information on when an entry was last updated. I will also work to place a sex offender code on the driverís licenses of offenders that will be recognizable to law enforcement personnel. Additionally, I will support measures that require that methamphetamine precursors be kept behind pharmacy counters and be distributed by pharmacy personnel and consider measures that further require that customers show proof of age and sign a log sheet.