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Warner hears job concerns on Southern Va. swing

Jobs, or the lack thereof, in addition to student debt continue to be the chief concerns of Southern Virginians if you ask Virginia Senator Mark Warner (D).

Warner stopped at Common Grounds in South Boston Thursday as part of a five-day swing through the commonwealth.

“I’ve heard concerns about jobs and continuing concerns over kids getting the right education and about student debt,” Warner said.

“People were pleased we got a budget, saying the last thing we needed was another government shutdown,” added the senior senator.

Something he expected to hear more about but didn’t experience while visiting Southern Virginia was the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare.

On Tuesday he had visited a volunteer fire company in Winchester noting the bipartisan bill he recently introduced exempting volunteer responders from the healthcare mandate.

That should have been clarified a long time ago, Warner reiterated on Thursday.

“I’m glad they fixed it, but why didn’t they clarify that a year ago,” said Warner, who experienced success as a venture capitalist before being elected Virginia governor and U.S. Senator.

Although mentioning a number of good aspects of the Affordable Health Care Act, he acknowledged the rollout as a “fiasco.”

“One thing we needed to learn from this rollout, and one thing I’m hearing is we need a ‘copper’ or ‘tin’ plan that’s cheaper, so if someone wants just more catastrophic coverage and is willing to pay for it, they can,” he noted.

Warner also mentioned his constituents’ concerns over the country’s mounting debt, an issue he continues to address in Washington.

The thing he continues to be frustrated about is a “grand bargain” to try and get America’s debt under control.

“To my mind that’s a jobs program,” said Warner.

“One of things that frustrates me is folks who say we can’t get to that issue this year, and to me that’s the most un-American.”

A partial answer to creating jobs in Southern Virginia is a relatively new concept called “crowd funding,” Warner explained.

Several years ago, Congress passed a bill called the Jobs Act, which did some things to help small businesses, but what brought the most attention was crowd funding, according to the senator.

“Basically, what that says if you have a new startup business, instead of going to a bank or venture capitalist, it would allow you to raise money on the Internet,” said Warner.

“There can be mistakes in that, and people can get ripped off, but who would have ever figured E-bay would make millions trading products back and forth.

“I don’t want to oversell it, but if I was starting a small business in South Boston, a small manufacturer with a good idea and able to talk to 30,000 people in the community that would read about it, I might invest in it.

“That could be something really empowering for local communities.

“We need to do more with the Small Business Administration,” continued Warner, “because the banks, especially the smaller community banks, haven’t got back to lending the way they did before.”

Warner also suggested consolidating workforce-training programs as a way to address unemployment in Southern Virginia.

Warner also supports campaign finance oversight in the light of the federal charges against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

“I’ve been friends with Gov. McDonnell a long time, and with our system of justice, you’re innocent until proven guilty, the senator said.

“I’ll give him that presumption,” added Warner who believes the Virginia General Assembly will address that issue in its upcoming session.

“We need stricter rules and more disclosure, and limits on some of these gifts, and I believe they’ll get that done,” he concluded  

“It’s unfortunate.”