Republican U.S. Senate candidate fielded questions from local businesspeople frustrated by government regulations and warned against looming defense cuts Wednesday morning at the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce.
Allen, a former senator and governor of Virginia, faces Democrat in the general election. Kaine, a former governor himself, also made a local appearance Wednesday, campaigning at Fort Hunt businesses.
Allen spoke at the chamber roundtable about his plan to create jobs and called for lower taxes, more business-friendly tax laws, exploitation of America’s energy resources — including drilling off the coast of Virginia — and the need to attract more minorities to higher education opportunities.
He spent much of his time warning about the consequences of the federal debt ceiling standoff that will automatically trigger spending cuts and the expiration of tax cuts. This includes a $500 billion cut in defense spending, he said. Such cuts will be devastating to military readiness and hundreds of thousands of jobs in Virginia, particularly in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, Allen said.
“We just can’t allow that to happen,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be stopped. If not, it’s got to be stopped as soon as possible, and I want to provide that leadership. … You have to set priorities, and my view is the federal government’s primary responsibility is national defense.”
Pilots are already flying outdated planes, and the country needs to maintain its fleet of submarines, aircraft carriers and unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
Allen also called for a “flatter” tax code and lowering the business tax from 35 percent to 20 percent while eliminating exemptions and loopholes. He also advocated reforming regulations he claimed are hurting small businesses.
Vanessa Wheeler, owner of in Mount Vernon, told Allen she didn’t like being “controlled” by the government and called Kaine the “twin” of President Barack Obama in terms of philosophy.
Wheeler expressed dismay about certain entitlement programs and told Allen she has five full-time employees who make more than $12 an hour and still receive food stamps and other government assistance.
“How are we going to stop this?” she asked. “How are we going to get back to the point where all of us are not going to have to pay for this going forward? … It’s not sustainable. And everybody’s got to realize that, that the people who are paying the taxes are becoming less and less. We are numbering downward whereas the takers are going upward.”
“I’d love for you to be an ambassador for us,” Allen told Wheeler, extolling personal responsibility and saying as governor he worked to drastically decrease welfare rolls.
Roundtable participant Phyllis Sintay, a Realtor with McEnearney Associates, told Allen when she first became a Realtor, contracts were one page long. Today, they’re much longer, and new regulations that put limits on lending have placed additional burdens on business.
“We could certainly use less government involvement,” Sintay said.
Victoria Hatfield, a commercial banker with Burke & Herbert Bank, said federal regulations have limited loan opportunities for small businesses.
“I can’t say yes as much as I’d like to, with stricter regulations and all,” she said. “So sometimes, that’s discouraging.”
Farzana Kennedy, owner of Alexandria Compounding Pharmacy in Old Town, said businesses such as hers are struggling due to a tangle of Drug Enforcement Agency regulations that govern the dispensing of certain medications. “That’s a huge issue right now,” she said. “It makes no sense.”
The roundtable was co-sponsored by the Hispanic Business Advisory Council Legislative Affairs Committee.