On his four-month anniversary as a U.S. senator, Democrat Tim Kaine visited Leesburg Friday to speak with a group of small business owners and entrepreneurs about legislation he supports to make the state and nation's economic environment more vibrant.
Kaine, a former Virginia governor who sits on the Budget, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees in Congress' upper chamber, touched briefly on three key items in Washington that have a direct impact on local businesses and the economy as a whole.
First was the Marketplace Fairness Act, which deals with online retailers collecting and remitting sales taxes. Kaine said the measure, expected to be voted on today, aims to “level the playing field” among small and big businesses. “Main street,” brick-and-mortar merchants who collect sales tax are at a disadvantage compared to online retailers who aren't forced to charge the tax, Kaine said. He noted that online retailers who sell less than $1 million annually will not have to submit the sales taxes according to the Marketplace Fairness Act.
The act "grants states the authority to force online and catalog retailers, no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction," according to MarketplaceFairness.org
. A caveat, however, is that "states are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws."
Per action by the Virginia General Assembly, a portion of the revenues collected from the Marketplace Fairness Act, should it pass, will go toward funding the commonwealth's new transportation plan.
Both Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia's senior senator, are expected to support.
The second issue Kaine highlighted was immigration reform, legislation for which is anticipated to be voted on in June. On the immigration front, Kaine supports giving employers more options to verify their workers' citizenship status, a 13-year path for immigrants to gain citizenship and measures that will reunify families.
The immigration reform bill Kaine spoke of -- the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act – was introduced this year by a group of four Republican and four Democrat senators.
“These are reforms that will bring more high-skilled workers in the country,” Kaine said.
On the federal budget, specifically the debt and deficit, Kaine said he and his colleagues on Capitol Hill need to find a budget that doesn't “choke off growth,” while at the same time deals with “tough” expense items such as health care and entitlements.
“The deficit's starting to come down because growth's starting to pick up,” Kaine said. “ … but we've got a ways to go.”
Kaine thanked the audience for their support in his November victory over another former governor, Republican George Allen. Kaine won Loudoun County with 53 percent of the vote, the same mark he hit statewide.
Approximately 25 local businessmen and businesswomen were on hand at the Mason Enterprise Center event. The center is a university-based economic development enterprise that, according to its website, “focuses the energy, skills and intellectual capital of George Mason University on enterprise creation and expansion.”