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Del. Kathy Byron and challenger Katie Webb Cyphert met at a forum at Smith Mountain Lake.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Del. Kathy Byron and Democratic challenger Katie Webb Cyphert took opposing stands on legislative seniority, ways to fix higher education, and state tax reform during a forum Tuesday night at Smith Mountain Lake.
Byron, R-Bedford County, said her 14 years in the General Assembly would rank her 14th in the House of Delegates and make her the longest-serving legislator from central Virginia.
“That’s important in Richmond,” and leads to influence on key committees, she said.
Cyphert, who teaches sixth-graders in Lynchburg and sells insurance part time, said, “What I bring to the table is a new perspective,” one that’s skeptical of stimulating the state’s economy by providing tax breaks for businesses — an indirect reference to some bills Byron has passed.
Byron said she’s proud of having sponsored what she described as tax reforms, and said she would propose a major tax overhaul next winter based on a legislative study she’s participating in now.
Cyphert and Byron were among 21 candidates who spoke at the forum, which was sponsored by the Smith Mountain Lake Association and held at the Trinity Ecumenical Parish on Virginia 122 in Franklin County. Seventeen of the candidates were running for Franklin County offices.
Byron and Cyphert are running in the 22nd House district, which includes much of southern Bedford County, part of Lynchburg, and three precincts in Franklin County. Part of Campbell County also is in the district.
The two offered sharply different views about ways to fix higher education finances when they responded to an audience member’s question about a study on the rising cost of a college education.
The study showed college-cost increases have been driven by administration expenses and athletic fees instead of enhanced learning opportunities.
Byron said she and other lawmakers increased tuition assistance grants, voted to let students transfer community college credits to universities, and made more college admissions available to Virginia students instead of people from other states.
“We have had a lot of issues with making sure our students from our families in Virginia get an opportunity to go to our Virginia state colleges,” Byron said.
Cyphert said the state is micromanaging education when it dictates admissions policies.
“I think they have done enough micromanaging in education as a whole,” Cyphert said.
She also said she “was heartbroken to see that the University of Virginia had actually been considering” changing itself into a private college “because its share of revenues from the state have declined to such a point that it may actually make fiscal sense.”
“There have got to be better solutions for this than simply blaming it on increases in athletics,” Cyphert said.
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