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Warner stresses cooperative effort
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Sen. Mark Warner speaks to community and business leaders Saturday at Martinsville Speedway during a “working together” tour of the state. Warner discussed ideas for strengthening the economy, creating jobs and reducing the burden of student debt during the tour as part of his re-election campaign. (Bulletin photo by Paul Collins)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner discussed ideas for strengthening the economy, creating jobs and reducing the burden of student debt, among other issues, Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

The first-term senator and former governor is on what his campaign calls a “working together” tour around Virginia, with 14 events over six days, The Associated Press reported.

“One of the hardest days I had as governor was when Pillowtex closed (in 2003),” Warner said in his remarks to nearly 75 supporters, elected officials and community leaders at the speedway. He said he came back to this area frequently after that, often with checks in hand in connection with business announcements.

This area is “one of the great American examples of a community that won’t give up,” he said.

One of the lessons learned was that putting all your eggs in one basket — textiles and furniture — is not a good economic strategy for the area, he said.

Washington gridlock is one of the more challenging parts of his job as senator, Warner said, but he works for bipartisan solutions.

“Unless you’re willing to work together, you’re part of the problem, not the solution,” he said.

He also talked about the “fair shot” at success he has received in life (from his education to his business ventures) and added, “We’ve got to make sure that fair shot still exists.”

He expressed concern about the $1 trillion student loan debt in the United States.

Warner, a multi-millionaire cell-phone pioneer, said at a tour stop in Richmond that he doubted he could have continued as an entrepreneur when some of his early startups failed if he’d been burdened with an excessive student loan debt, the AP reported. He made similar remarks at the Martinsville Speedway.

Also at the speedway, Warner referred to some of the points he made in a news release May 23 on his U.S. Senate website, explaining that he introduced a series of proposals to make higher education more affordable for families and provide additional ways for borrowers to repay student loans.

The release said: “Sen. Warner’s proposals include bipartisan legislation to provide greater transparency to help students and their families make more informed college and career decisions. ... (It) also strengthens career and technical education programs by more closely linking local job training programs with today’s job openings. In addition, the senator proposes making income-based Pell Grants available to qualified high school students so they can begin taking college-level courses sooner, lowering the overall cost of their higher education.”

“Finally, Sen. Warner will propose legislation expanding opportunities for borrowers to repay student loans based on their income, and he has proposed creating a voluntary program that allows employers to help their employees better manage and pay-down their student debts,” the release said.

To help create jobs, Warner said Saturday, better ways are needed to raise capital, such as crowdfunding a startup. Crowdfunding is a way for businesses to raise capital through the pooling of many relatively small investments, according to Warner’s Senate website.

Also to help create jobs, Warner said he partnered with U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Vienna) on legislation to provide incentives to companies that have moved overseas to come back to the United States.

On other issues, Warner cited the need to reform the tax code and entitlement programs and the need to address the nation’s deficits and debt.

According to Warner’s remarks Saturday and his campaign website, when he was elected governor in 2001, the commonwealth “was bleeding red ink,” and Warner worked with a Republican-led legislature to turn a $6 billion shortfall into a $1 billion surplus.

On the Affordable Care Act, Warner said he wants to keep what makes sense and fix what doesn’t.

A release on his website explained them:

• “The Expanded Consumer Choice Act, introduced by Sen. Warner and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), creates a new coverage option, the Copper Plan, to be offered to consumers. Copper Plans will provide a lower-cost, higher-deductible option for consumers.”

• “A second proposal introduced by Sen. Warner directs state insurance commissioners to work together to design an effective model that would allow insurers to offer coverage across state boundaries, increasing competition and choice for both consumers and employers.”

• “Sen. Warner also is cosponsoring legislation to improve employer flexibility and affordability by expanding the option for voluntary coverage for small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, which represents about 98 percent of all employers.”

On another issue, Warner said he supports the resignation of Gen. Eric Shinseki as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Warner called him “a hero” and said he served this country with distinction. Warner said controversy over Shinseki’s leadership had taken away from the real issue: the need to reform VA to provide quality and timely services for veterans.


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