Energy, Obamacare, government regulations and spending were the hot topics at a morning roundtable discussion Friday between a dozen local business leaders and Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Springfield.
The former governor and U.S. senator, in his stop at the West Springfield Government Center, said he's optimistic about the future and wants to change the trajectory of the U.S. economy.
"My thoughts on energy are that it should be affordable, reliable and preferably American," said Allen, who backs the construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Texas, which was rejected earlier this year by President Obama. "We truly have the ability to be strategically energy independent. We don't have to worry about what the mullahs of Iran are doing. And in our country, we will have hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs."
Former Virginia governor and former chairman of the Democratical National Committee is Allen's opponent and has said he hopes the administration will "continue to examine this project and offer its thoughts on how it can be safely accomplished."
"We need every single job our businesses can create and the Keystone Pipeline may help increase energy supplies, but by itself, it is not a solution to either our economic crisis or our energy crisis," he says in a statement on his website. "Oil production is now higher than it was under the previous administration. That is progress we need to maintain while also developing a clean energy economy. Our global competitors are winning that race right now, and we cannot afford to fall farther behind."
Allen and Kaine are in a dead heat, according to recent polls. “The Virginia Senate race is about the most boring race we poll,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling to the Washington Times. “It’s always too close to call and probably will be all the way to November. Voters know the candidates, are split in their feelings about them and haven’t shown much inclination to budge.”
One of the participants at Friday's roundtable, Patrick Barney, owner of "4 More Travel," said he voted for Allen in the 1994 governor's race. "He (Allen) knows the issues; whether he can deliver is another question," Barney said. "In my lifetime this is the lowest level of trust we have in government at all levels. 'The common good' has become a dirty phrase."
Also up for discussion on Friday: Borrowing from banks. It remains difficult, Allen said. "Access to capital is actually in somewhat of a crisis," he said. "And the banks do have capital to lend. I do think it is a crisis that is affecting the housing and building markets."
"And I talk with restaurant folks all the time about this government mandate on health care. If the business has more than 50 employees, it's cheaper for them to pay the fine than pay $2,000 for the health plans of each employee. And then all the employees are just dumped by the wayside."
Always a hot topic at any Northern Virginia gathering: Traffic. Allen said that emergency lanes on Interstate 66 should be opened up. "The so-called emergency lanes—I dealt with these when I was governor," he said. "If there's not a wreck then let people drive on it 90 percent of the time. Open it up."
"There's always a better way, and when I was governor I looked at every single regulation in Virginia. I'd remember saying: 'What's the purpose of the regulation and is there a less burdensome way to achieve it? After four years, over 70 percent of them were repealed or amended," he said. "We need an economic impact analysis of regulations to tell us the impact on people and their jobs."
Allen will speak later today (Friday) at 6:30 p.m. at an "Ambassadors for Allen Roundtable" at the Mason District Government Center in Annandale.