There is “a lot of unease, a lot of worry” among companies in Virginia as across-the-board “sequestration” defense cuts near, former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator George Allen tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
“Companies are waiting to see what will what happen,” Allen tells Newsmax. “They don’t know what’s going to happen – and it’s all occasioned by this poor leadership in Washington.”
Allen, who served as the Republican governor from 1994 to 1998, is facing Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine in an increasingly intense battle to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. A recent Rasmussen Results telephone poll shows Kaine ahead by just a point, 46 to 45 percent.
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Allen was elected to the Senate in 2000. He lost his re-election bid in 2006 to Democrat Jim Webb, but Webb is not running for re-election this year. Allen beat out three other Republican hopefuls in a primary election in June.
The looming reductions in defense stem from legislation approved last year that Allen said he opposed “because it sloughed off decisions to yet another commission.” Kaine backed the measure.
The sequestration reductions take effect on Jan. 1. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the cuts pose a national security threat. They take effect Jan. 1.
“This is such a typical failure in Washington, which is not only going to harm our military readiness, but over 200,00 good-paying jobs could be lost in Virginia,” Allen said. “The men and women serving in our Armed Forces will not have the equipment, the upgraded armaments that they need for protecting our freedoms.
“It’s a major concern in Virginia,” Allen added. “When you knock out over 200,000 good-paying jobs, that will have an impact, obviously, on our military’s capabilities – and it also is going to have an impact on communities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Allen noted that Kaine has since reversed his position and has called for budget cuts and “revenue enhancements” to balance any possible losses from the forthcoming cuts.
“When he talks about revenue enhancements, that means tax increases,” Allen said of his opponent. “That’s what he tried to do as governor, with the record tax increases that he proposed. And, fortunately, Democrats and Republicans voted them down in Virginia.
“The last thing we need with this very weak economy is higher taxes, particularly on job-creating businesses. That means there’d be job losses.”
“What we need to do is get our economy moving,” Allen added. “Leadership is setting priorities and getting others to agree on those goals.”
Allen said that he plans to take the lead should he be elected to the Senate by introducing legislation right away that would allow drilling for oil and natural gas off the Virginia coast and use the royalties to finance improvements in roads and transportation.
“That’s the only way to grow the economy,” he said.
“Most estimates recognize that there is oil and gas off our coast. And if we were allowed to produce there, for Virginia, the impact would be thousands of jobs that are related to it.”
Allen added that Virginia could receive as much as $250 million a year in royalties from such reserves. “It’s also oil and gas from the United States, and not having to worry about what Venezuela or Saudi Arabia or some cartel or oligarchy might do to us.”
“Virginians from the coast all the way to the coal fields are more than ready, willing and able to provide America with the energy to power our economy. All we need is folks in Washington let us unleash those resources.”
There’s also concern about the coal industry in southwestern Virginia – and how the region is being affected by increasing regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stemming coal use, Allen said.
“One supervisor in southwest Virginia told me, ‘Look, southwest Virginia lives or dies on the outcome of this election,’ ” Allen said. “They realize what’s at stake – and it means jobs, not just for those involved in coal mining but in all the shops, the stores, even the Girl Scout cookie sales.”
"It matters for the railroads,” including Virginia-based Norfolk Southern Corp. and CSX Corp., he explained. “Virginia has the largest coal port in the United States. About 40 percent of the coal is exported out of our ports.
“We need to allow clean coal technology to be a component, part of a diversified energy supply.”
As for recent polls showing a one-point difference between he and Kaine, Allen said: “The key will be making sure that people know what the issues are and what’s at stake. Independent voters will be really crucial.
"The Republicans will be with us. Most of the Democrats will be on the other side although we’ll get some Democrat votes in southwest Virginia. But the independents matter.”
And these independent voters have heightened Virginia’s stature as a battleground state in this year’s presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“We know it’s a tight race. Virginia is a key battleground. Virginia is now really pivotal in determining who is going to be a majority in the Senate, as well as in the presidential race.”
“We realize it’s going to be, really, about 10 percent undecided,” Allen predicted. “Then, it’s going to be about 6 then it’s going to get to the 2 percent of those undecided independents.
“Most people, I believe, think our country is going in the wrong direction. They’re looking for positive, constructive solutions that will get our economy moving again.
“And our ideas – whether it’s on taxes, whether it’s reasonable regulations, whether it’s unleashing our American energy resources – all would be conducive to more investment and more jobs,” Allen said. “Ours is a positive solution.”
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