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House of Delegates, Dist. 39

Candidate name: Saqib Ali

Party affiliation: Democrat

Place of residence: Gaithersburg

Date of birth: Jan. 21, 1975

Place of birth: Chicago

Current occupation: Senior Software Engineer, The Mitre Corporation, McLean, VA

Education: B.S. in computer science, University of Maryland, College Park; M.S. in computer science, University of Maryland

Community associations, involvement: Co-chair Longdraft Road Coalition

Professional associations:No answer

Family: Wife, Susan; One daughter Sofia, three months

Campaign office address: 12504 Degas Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Campaign Telephone: (301) 591-1612.

Link to candidate’s Web site, if site exists.

Link to state Board of Elections campaign finance database

What are your top three priorities for the next four years, if elected?

* Expanding access to health care for our states’ 762,000 uninsured citizens.

* Increasing education funding in Maryland

* Protecting and enhancing civil-rights⁄civil-liberties.

How would you rate the performance of the current representatives of your district: excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?

I am running for delegate from District 39 because I feel that I can be the most effective and responsive representative of the people of District 39. It is not my place to rate the incumbents but to ensure that the district’s voters see me as their best choice to represent them. The voters will rate us all on election day.

Do you support amending the constitution to give the legislature more budget authority?

Yes. The Executive Branch should still be responsible for proposing the annual budget, but the legislature should have more ability to modify the proposed budget by cutting or eliminating programs that are wasteful or that have outlived their usefulness and determining where the savings should be spent. The Legislature also should have the ability to add or modify essential programs coupled with the responsibility of identify funding sources for such programs. I would like to see legislation that encourages state employees and program managers to produce savings in their areas of responsibility without being penalized by having their future budgets cut.

Is the rate of growth in Maryland too fast, too slow or about right, and why?

The rate of growth in Maryland is uneven. In Montgomery County the rate of growth in new housing growth faster than government has provided for the infrastructure such as roads and schools. I would favor stricter growth limits on Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and legislative initiatives designed to provide for more job growth on the Eastern Shore and the Western Panhandle, so that more people can live in those areas without having to commute to the major metropolitan areas.

What programs would you like to add or cut from the state budget? How would you pay for additional programs? What would you do with the money from any cuts you make?

Because providing adequate health care coverage for all Marylanders is one of my top priorities, I’m very interested in observing and perhaps imitating Massachusetts experiment in health care reform.

Governor Romney has engineered a universal health care system where individuals can choose from a wide array of health plans regardless of their employer. Those employees working at small businesses are no longer disadvantaged by higher premiums. And premiums overall are expected to decrease.

To pay for this and other initiatives such as increasing the Transportation Trust Fund, we should close Maryland’s Transfer and Recordation Tax loophole. This is the height of corporate welfare. Maryland is loosing millions of dollars a years due to this loophole.

I also, in principle, support luxury taxes. For example: those families that drive very large, low-mileage, expensive, luxury vehicles can afford to pay an annual fee⁄tax.

I also think that we should increase the tax on cigarettes and liquor. Increasing these taxes will bring money into the state treasury and will also discourage unhealthy behavior.

Are there specific taxes or fees that you would cut?

I would cut any fees associated with obtaining a state-issued identification (not a drivers’ license). I think it is reasonable to charge a fee for drivers’ license. However, I believe the MVA should issue free photo ID card. The current cost of such a card is $15. Photo-ID cards are a requirement for operating in a modern society such as our own. Due to federal regulations, a photo ID is required to get employment. Also, in the case of medical emergency situations, photo IDs are very important. For these reasons, I believe the $15 fee should be cut.

Do you support slot machines for Maryland? Why or why not?

State-sponsored slot machines gambling is little more than a regressive form of taxation. Unfortunately, the people who play slots are often the most marginal members of society who can least afford losing the money. The state should not be promoting a vice that can potentially destroy lives and families. Opening the door to slot-machine gambling could bring in a host of social problems worse than the supposed benefits such as addictions, increased crime, etc.

Do you support giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants?

I do not believe that anyone besides the Federal Immigration and Naturalization Service should be monitoring the immigration status of individuals. Therefore, if an illegal immigrant applies for a driver’s license, there should be no requirement to prove immigration status. This is an issue of public safety for all our citizens.

Do you support in-state tuition to illegal immigrants?

Again, I do not believe state institutions should be monitoring immigration status. If an immigrant meets the educational and residency requirements to qualify for in-state tuition, I think they should receive it. By improving the educational qualifications of all immigrants we increase the likelihood that they will become productive citizens paying their full share of our tax burden. Marginalizing this community is pointless because their children will be legal US Citizens. Hurting the parents will inevitably hurt the children.

What is the biggest problem facing higher education and what would you do to solve it?

The increasing costs of higher education have been outstripping the rate of inflation for the past 20+ years. We need to keep our state-funded colleges and universities within the economic reach of all of our qualified students. That requires a three-pronged approach: first, we must create incentives for colleges and universities to conserve resources and hold the line on costs where they can; secondly, we need to provide additional funds where necessary to keep our higher education institutions top-notch; thirdly, we need to provide additional sources of financial assistance to our students with the greatest financial need.

Where would you get more money for the Transportation Trust Fund?

We should close Maryland’s Transfer and Recordation Tax loophole. This is the height of corporate welfare. Maryland is loosing millions of dollars a years due to this loophole.

I also, in principle, support luxury taxes. For example: those families that drive very large, low-mileage, expensive, luxury vehicles can afford to pay an annual fee⁄tax.

I also think that we should increase the tax on cigarettes and liquor. Increasing these taxes will bring money into the state treasury and will also discourage unhealthy behavior.

What specific transportation projects do you see as priorities for the state?

If we are to curb the growing problem of traffic congestion, we must build more safe and convenient mass transportation options, and I support the following mass transit solutions:

_ Building the ICC as a point-to-point, limited access roadway, similar to George Washington Parkway, so that it does not become the kind of sprawl-encouraging eyesore that Georgia Avenue and Rockville Pike have become.

_ Building Metro’s proposed Inner Purple line from Bethesda to New Carrollton via Silver Spring, which will preserve the Capital Crescent Trail

_ Building the Corridor City Transit Ways Light Rail Lines

_ Increasing the availability of county-provided door-to-door transportation for disabled and senior citizens who need assistance reaching medical appointments, day care programs, and other essential services

_ Enlarging Metro parking facilities and expanding Ride-On bus service

_ Controlling Metro fare increases through more efficient use and control of available funds

_ Extending the Metro Red Line from Shady Grove to Clarksburg and Frederick to relieve congestion along I-270

_ Forging greater regional cooperation between Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. on transportation projects

_ Providing new incentives for telecommuting and transit use

_ Improving access to and the safety of pedestrian routes

_ Constructing more bicycle paths to encourage this healthful, environmentally friendly option for commuting and recreation, and

_ Soliciting proposals from those in the community who have creative ideas for addressing transportation needs.

Should there be a dedicated funding source for Washington and Baltimore mass transit?

Yes. Maryland’s transportation infrastructure is vital to our economy and our quality of life. These projects should have dedicated funding sources.

Would you re-regulate the electricity industry?

The short answer would seem to be yes. However, before we determine exactly what legislation is needed to protect the public from the types of exorbitant rate hikes seen recently, we should await study by the new Public Service Commission. That said, I expect that some type of regulation will be necessary to prevent a disproportionate impact on low income families and senior citizens.

Do you believe Maryland’s gun control laws are too strict, not strict enough or just right?

I believe that we need to strengthen Maryland’s gun control laws. In particular, I’m disappointed that in 2004, when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired, a Maryland bill to Ban Assault Weapons died in committee. I can’t see any reason that people would need semi-automatic weapons such as Uzi’s and ‘‘street-sweepers” except to intimidate, to kill people and to commit crimes.

What is your position on abortion?

Personally, for my family, I am not in favor of abortions except in very special, narrowly defined circumstances. However, I do not believe that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned. I think the best way to limit abortions is to reduce unwanted pregnancies. This can be done through a variety of public and private initiatives. Often those who are the most economically disadvantaged are the most at risk of unwanted pregnancies.

Should the Maryland constitution be changed to allow same-sex marriages?

I’m in favor of expanding civil rights for all citizens of Maryland. To that end, I support amending our constitution to allow same-sex marriages. I don’t see how allowing same-sex marriages will weaken the traditional institution of marriage or any other members of society.

Does the state need stricter controls to protect the environment?

Yes. One example is the proliferation of trash in some of our neighborhoods. It is an unsightly, unhealthy environmental hazard. Much of the trash is discarded beverage containers. I believe we need ‘‘Bottle Bill” legislation in Maryland that would increase recycling and clean up our neighborhoods. Bottle bills are a proven, sustainable method of capturing beverage bottles and cans for recycling. The refund value of the container (usually 5 or 10 cents) provides a monetary incentive to return the container for recycling.

What is your position on the Corridor Cities Transitway? Assuming you support it, do you believe it should be a bus or light-rail system? What would you do to advance its funding?

Absolutely, I’m in favor of building the Corridor Cities Transitway. I have not decided on if it would best be a bus-route or light-rail system. I believe the important thing is that it is a very high priority issue for me. I will work and lobby the County Council and County Executive to keep this high on their agenda. This specific project is all about priorities and making sure that it doesn’t get subsumed by other issues. Choosing light-rail vs. bus in my opinion is a secondary issue. A

As a delegate I will push hard to support funding for the CCT using my voting authority in the General Assembly.

The upcounty remains one of Montgomery County’s fastest growing areas and a growing crime problem is a concern for residents. What is your plan for providing state support to the local mission of protecting public safety?

Much of the increase in crime is being associated with an increase in gang activity. Gangs are a scourge. They plague our poorest neighborhoods, destroying families and young lives and frustrating the hopes of many who are working hard to better themselves and their communities. We must take a strong stand against gangs. It is time for Maryland to enact STEP laws.

More than 35 states have enacted laws are patterned after California’s Street Terrorism Enforcement Program (STEP) Act. STEP laws target criminal street gangs. They impose longer jail sentences on those convicted of crimes related to gang activity and, even more important, strengthen the ability of the State to prosecute such crimes. Although STEP laws allow the inclusion of evidence that courts previously may have excluded as potentially prejudicial, they fully maintain the legal rights of those accused of gang-related crimes and allow defense counsel adequate means for defending those rights.

Maryland is itself a victim of one of the nation’s most violent gangs - MS-13 - yet the state has no STEP laws. We must change this situation, and I pledge to work toward passage of a Maryland STEP Act that will help us turn the tide against gangs and restore to all of our neighborhoods a sense of safety and security.