NCSL Annual Meeting
Early this summer, the Speaker of the House appointed me to the Committee on Education of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). I attended my first meeting in Nashville during the NCSL Annual Meeting in mid-August.
Because the federal act known as “No Child Left Behind” is due for re-authorization next year, the Education Committee is beginning the process of considering what recommendations to make to the Congress. We will be looking to state and local governments for input on those recommendations.
One of the special treats of the NCSL session was a speech by Doris Kearns Goodwin about leadership. She drew heavily on her writings and relationship with Lyndon Johnson and her recent book, Team of Rivals, about Lincoln’s cabinet and his unique leadership abilities. I strongly recommend it to you.
The blame game: alive & well
Once again, the House Republican majority kept the House from voting on a proposal to hold local governments harmless because of state action that would reduce services to children. In July, all House Republicans voted to reject Budget amendments proposed by Governor Kaine that would have kept 1900 poor families from losing child care that allowed parents to work.
Last week, as reported in the News-Press, House Republicans voted as a block to adjourn rather than vote on another proposal by Governor Kaine to fund a shortfall in school aid caused by a state accounting error. The Senate approved the amendment in short order, but the House Republicans, more anxious to play “the blame game” than help school systems, refused to vote on the Governor’s amendment until September 27 at the earliest.
Therefore, Falls Church and Fairfax County must wait for another 30 days for legislative action to guarantee the $18+million promised to Fairfax County and the $200,000+ promised to Falls Church so the House can chastise Warner and Kaine administrations further about errors they made and admitted. Who loses in this game of blame? The children of Virginia.
Federal $$ shortfall
As George Mason’s Dr. Stephen Fuller has pointed out, Federal contracts are driving our regions’ current prosperity. Without Homeland Security dollars, Northern Virginia’s economy would be much less healthy.
A recent report by Governing Magazine, underscores that point. In FY 2004 Virginia ranked 49th in total per capita Federal aid to states and localities, and dead last (50th) in total state and local spending per capita. Even with the large amount of Federal funding for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Springfield Mixing Bowl, we rank 39th in highway spending. And in 4-5 years, all we spend will go to maintenance—another reason it is imperative that we increase reliable and stable revenues for transportation when we return to Richmond in three weeks.
With Virginia’s seniority in Congress, I was surprised to learn that Federal aid is so limited. The Governing analysis does not take into account the increase in state spending on public and higher education that occurred during the Warner and Kaine administrations.
Nevertheless, without continued strong Federal contracting, it seems clear that the golden goose that is Northern Virginia would be nauseous at best. To ensure continued regional prosperity, we must begin to develop strategies in concert with our members of Congress to increase Federal aid significantly. One important component must be Federal transportation financing, including, of course, Federal funding for transit to Dulles Airport.