Editor’s Note: Republican incumbent Tom Rust is running for re-election as the Delegate from the 86th District (Herndon) against Democratic nominee Jennifer Boysko. Read our recent profile of Boysko here.
Many Herndon residents are probably very familiar with Tom Rust, the 86th District’s Delegate to the Virginia General Assembly.
After all, he’s been involved in local politics since the age of 29, when he was first elected to the Herndon Town Council in 1971. Over the next few decades, he also served as the town’s mayor, before being elected as Herndon’s local Delegate to the General Assembly in 2002.
But, as we head into the next election, Delegate Rust wants to reach out to constituents, to help Herndon residents get to know him and what he’s all about, as he asks for everyone’s vote once again this November.
Long record of serving Herndon
Rust said, when he was first elected to the Herndon Town Council in 1971, the town only had about 4,000 people. He said, as an engineer, fellow residents asked for his help in guiding the town – so he did.
“I did it out of a sense of community. It was my hometown; I’ve been here all my adult life,” Rust recalled. “Herndon was going through growing pains, with development, sewer and water [and so forth].”
Rust served on the Town Council for five years before being asked to run for mayor in 1976. Rust served as mayor until 1984. Then, after taking a few years off, he was asked to run for mayor again in 1990, when the mayor at the time wished to step down, so he did.
In 2002, Rust was elected to the General Assembly, where he has served ever since, and hopes to continue to do so.
Rust is one of very few members of the General Assembly who have four committee assignments, he said. He serves on the Education committee, where he is the chair of the Higher Education subcommittee; the Transportation committee, where he is the chair of the Transportation Policy subcommittee; the Commerce and Labor committee, and on the Science and Technology committee, where he serves as vice chair.
In the past, he has also served for many years on the boards for both Longwood University and Virginia Tech, to which he was appointed to by both Democratic and Republican former governors.
What are his priorities? Where does Rust stand on the issues?
As we head into another election, Rust said some of his biggest focuses currently are on job creation and the local economy.
“Sequestration in the federal government has really affected this area – and, I’m convinced they’ll do nothing about it, and 2014 will be even worse than 2013,” Rust said. “Virginia has got to continue to be business-friendly, and do everything we can to attract new companies with new jobs, and retain the companies and jobs we currently have.”
“How can we do that? Keep Virginia one of best states to do business in,” he said, naming the state’s right-to-work laws and low business regulations as being instrumental for attracting companies to the area.
Rust said he helped carry legislation that helped Volkswagen, SAIC, Hilton’s headquarters and Northup Grumman to the area, and said the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, which most recently helped attract Amazon Web Services to Herndon, is crucial as well.
“We need to continue things like that,” Rust said.
Education is also another issue important to Rust, he said. Not only does Northern Virginia need to keep working hard to keep its education system top-notch, but Rust feels an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is needed, he said.
“This is a very intense IT-based economy here,” he said. “[Local companies] need well-trained personnel for the jobs - and they’re pretty high-paying jobs, generally speaking.”
As voters elect a new governor as well in November, Rust praised Gov. McDonnell’s introduction of the Top Jobs Act, which strives to create more slots for students at state colleges and universities, and sets the goal of 100,000 new degrees by 2025, with an emphasis on STEM degrees. Rust said he was a big patron of the Top Jobs Act, and helped carry legislation requiring many local community colleges to form partnerships for guaranteed transfer acceptance with four-year universities. He said, he hopes the next governor’s administration continues that work.
Rust said he is also very proud of his work on Dual Enrollment programs, which allow ambitious high school students to earn college credits at the same time they earn their high school diplomas.
He mentioned he hopes to continue the trend by starting work soon on a way to get more fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade students interested in STEM, and being mentored all the way through school so they take the right classes to get their feet in the door in STEM college programs – especially girls.
“We don’t have enough young women interested in STEM fields,” he said.
Rust also said the best way he believes Virginia can keep its school systems top-notch is “by adequately compensating the professionals that make that possible.”
Speaking of funding, though, Rust acknowledged that votes on spending are often difficult ones.
“Every spending decision is different, because somebody wants ‘plus,’ which means ‘minus’ has to come from somewhere else,” he said. “But Virginia has a balanced budget - we don’t deficit spend, which is important. And we limit borrowing, and are AAA-bonded. No more than 5 percent of the general fund can be used to pay back bonds.”
Rust said, he makes the difficult decisions when he has to.
“During the deep recession in 2008, when we cut education by 5 percent – well, every other department was cut by 20 to 25 percent,” he said. “So we minimized the cuts [to education], and we’ve tried to build back up since then.”
“In 2004, under Gov. Mark Warner, we proposed a half-cent sales tax increase dedicated 100 percent to education,” he explained. “I and 16 of my colleagues joined with a group of Democrats and put that deal together and we passed it, and that was a huge infusion of money into K-12.”
“It was a very tough vote and I received a lot of criticism over it,” he continued, “but looking back, it was the right vote - and where would we be without that extra money? It was right for public education in Virginia. I’ve taken the tough votes when I’ve had to.”
Another tough area Rust said his thinking has evolved on in recent years is immigration.
“I had never supported the Dream Act until President Obama, in June 2012, signed an executive order that basically, in very simple terms, said that these young people who met a whole bunch of conditions would be eligible to get a green card, and would not be subject to deportation,” Rust explained.
“That removed my objection to [allowing them to get] in-state tuition [rates], because my thinking before was, why should Virginians financially assist them, by paying part of their college costs, when a young person who got their degree then couldn’t get a job after getting out of school?” he said.
“President Obama’s executive bill was a game-changer – before then, these people could not get a job.”
Some of the conditions he supported included that they had to have been in the country already on the date the President signed the bill and not a day later, they had to have been a graduate of high school in Virginia, their parents had to have paid Virginia income taxes, and they must have no criminal record, among other conditions, he explained.
“Many Northern Virginia chambers all supported it, as well as a wide variety of other groups, because they need well-trained employees,” he said. “Congress is having the exact same debate right now.”
Transportation is another issue important to him.
Rust said, if we continue to allow congestion in Northern Virginia to get worse, new companies aren’t going to want to come here and bring new jobs with them - so, transportation is tied in very closely with job creation.
He said for the past two years in a row, he and fellow delegate Ken Plum of Reston asked Gov. McDonnell to include $300 million in his budget for Metro rail – the first year, McDonnell rejected it.
This year, he included it – so that $300 million is about to come our way for helping to fund the Silver Line.
“I have been a supporter of the extension of rail to Dulles forever; but I obviously have concerns over continuing increases in tolls,” he said, adding that the $300 million will help alleviate concerns like that. “I think the Silver Line is important – I’m glad it’s going to happen.”
He said good news is also coming for local residents about road maintenance.
“That’s the most frequent question I get – ‘when are you going to pave my street?’” he said. “Well, last year there was $20 million in the budget for repaving – next year, it will be around $40 million.”
Lastly, Rust said he acknowledges that women’s health issues are also a growing concern of many as we head into the next election.
“Some of the more controversial issues in 2012 and ‘13 involving women’s health, I voted against; transvaginal ultrasounds [for women who want an abortion], personhood – I voted against all of them,” he explained. “But, I supported legislation that gave the Bureau of Insurance the power to review insurance policies and advise Virginia on what is good,” he said, adding that he also put into effect a bill that required insurers to implement portions of the Affordable Care Act recently.
“I think I’ve had a middle-of-the-road position on most issues – and there are a number of women’s groups that support me,” he added.
In summary, Rust said he feels his extensive record in public service and higher education gives him an experienced view that has influenced the way he approaches every issue that comes before the General Assembly.
Read more about Delegate Tom Rust on his website.
TELL US - As we head into the election – what are the most important issues to you? What do you think of Tom Rust’s views and his experience? Tell us in the comments below.
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