I've traveled throughout Virginia several times in the last two years and have met many people who are hurting. In most cases they are eager for a glimpse of hope and desperately seek a path to improve their situation. Concurrently, there are people working to create a sound business environment and improve our education system to give these citizens the skills for a successful career. Mason's votes are working against these efforts. So, if he's not helping with jobs and education, what is he doing to make life better in the meantime?
Issue: Medicaid Reform – Virginia's Medicaid expenditures have grown 1600% in the last 30 years and now consume more than 20% of our state's budget, exceeding $8 billion annually. As you know, there is a push by some, including Mason, to loosen eligibility rules under Obamacare that would add another 464,000 participants according to a UVA study, an increase of over 35%. With nothing prohibiting the federal government from passing along a large percentage of the cost to states however, most are hesitant to expand a program that even Gov. McAuliffe says would be rescinded if funding levels changed. Instead, Republicans are seeking alternative measures, but at the very least want to improve the efficiency of the current system before adding to it. There is clearly room for improvement. In one instance, a 2012 JLARC study found that DSS caseworkers had been enrolling ineligible recipients, costing as much as $263 million in 2010 alone. Imagine what could be found with a comprehensive audit of an $8 billion program.
In 2014, HJ40 was introduced to commission a comprehensive audit of Virginia's Medicaid program to identify and suggest fixes to address inefficiencies and fraud. No one doubts that even a modest improvement in efficiency would allow some expansion under the current rules. But, that didn't stop Mason from voting 'NO'. This extreme 'all or nothing' argument is prohibiting any chance of covering more people.
Issue: Prison Reform – Everyone knows that America's prisons are overcrowded. Virginia is no exception and it's important that we evaluate other methods for reform of certain non-violent offenders. This not only reduces cost to taxpayers, but by keeping the perpetrator of a non-violent lesser offense out of prison, they are less likely to fall even further into a life of crime. In 2014 Mason introduced HB 619, a bill to require prison for computer fraud if the victim was 65 or older. I believe his intention was good and with some adjustment it would have garnered support. However, as written this bill 'mandated' a minimum 2-year prison sentence for the first time offense of a $200 crime even in instances where a senior was not specifically targeted. Accordingly, it failed to pass the very committee he sat on. A simple amendment could have changed its outcome but he rejected that idea. Not to be deterred he reintroduced the bill in 2015, except rather than amending faults he expanded its reach to include a broader subset of perpetrators. It failed to even make it out of his own subcommittee. If you're curious why Mason was unable to pass a single bill in his two years, perhaps this sheds some light.
Issue: Neighborhood Assistance Programs – Everyone's aware that businesses and individuals who make charitable contributions qualify for a tax deduction. Most deductions are valued at whatever the income tax rate is for the contributor. Some giving however, qualifies for expanded tax credits. In Virginia, Neighborhood Assistance Programs (NAP), prequalified 501(c)(3) organizations that specifically benefit low-income individuals, allow expanded deductions. Among these are Habitat for Humanity, Grove Christian Outreach, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Avalon, Natasha House, and nearly 300 other organizations. NAP organizations can offer a tax credit up to 65% of the value of the gift but are limited to a specific total of credit allowed. Thus, current law allows organizations to offer a lower value if they wish to spread credits over a larger number of contributors. This works well for organizations that have a waiting list of donors. The less fortunate but just as worthy organizations however, don't have that luxury and utilize the full 65% that is available to them. In 2014, Mason introduced HB620 to "decrease the value of donations" to all Neighborhood Assistance Programs. Such a law would make it harder for many organizations to raise money. Understandably, legislators did not want anything to do with a bill that would take money away from charities in such desperate times. Accordingly, Mason was unable to persuade a single member of the House from either party to co-patron this bill, nor did get a vote. But that didn't stop him from reintroducing the bill in 2015, again garnering no co-patrons and no passage. By now, Mason's failure rate is probably starting to make sense.
Issue: Tax Deductible Scholarships - In Tuesday's letter I shared Mason's votes on education, noting where he had fought the rescue of failing schools as well as every attempt to provide an alternative for the affected students. Effectively, his actions force students to stay in failing schools unless they have the means to afford a private alternative. Few have that option. Fortunately, Delegate Jimmie Massie's Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credit provided some help. This program allows businesses and individuals to deduct 65% of their contribution to a scholarship program designated for low income families. Although the average scholarship is only $2,413.00 it can offset some of the cost for these students to attend better schools. The law was passed before Mason was elected but that hasn't prevented him from arguing against this program, claiming that by allowing businesses and individuals to take a tax deduction, they were effectively taking money from public schools, another VEA (Teacher's Union) position. His position smells of hypocrisy however, as Mason had no problem taking tax credits of his own after giving thousands of dollars over multiple years to Prince Edward Academy (renamed Fuqua School). Again, you can call him to confirm the issues on this and the preceding documents (757) 229-9310.
Folks, Monty Mason and challenger, Lara Overy will participate in a debate at the Williamsburg Library tonight at 7:00. These candidates are asking to represent you in the House of Delegates for the next two years. I urge you to go (early), listen, and ask questions. This district needs a delegate that will represent our values. I hope you have found this information helpful.
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