Legislators Say 2-Year Cuts to Top $3.2 Billion
A massive $3.2 billion shortfall walloping the current and next fiscal year budgets in Virginia will take a deep toll in state funding of localities, Falls Church’s two representatives in Richmond, State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple and State Del. Jim Scott, told the F.C. City Council Monday night.
The two lawmakers were at the meeting to receive Falls Church’s annual legislative agenda, its wish list for new laws in the upcoming legislative session, which will begin in early January.
Whipple cautioned the Council that there “should be no sugar coating” obfuscating the impact of the state’s budget shortfall, due to the sharp economic downturn that has impacted most parts of the state more than the Northern Virginia region.
She said that while the emphasis will be on one-time, and not structural, reductions in spending, she noted that more than half of the state budget provides aid to localities, and that K-12 education will not be exempt from cuts.
Scott noted that both he and Whipple have backgrounds in local government, making them sensitive to the impact of cuts. For one thing, delaying the opening of new state prisons will add greater burdens on local jails.
Otherwise, Falls Church has less dependence on state funding than jurisdictions in the southern part of Virginia, some of whom get two-thirds of their operating funds from Richmond.
But Scott warned the current Republican majority in Richmond, representing the poorer regions of the state, will push to further limit state support to education in Northern Virginia jurisdictions by redefining the formula for educational support.
They will push to limit support to cost-of-living (COL) teacher and staff salary adjustments by having Richmond define the COL limit, instead of individual jurisdictions. That will hurt Northern Virginia disproportionately, Scott said, because the cost of living is higher here than in other parts of the state.
As far as Falls Church’s legislative priorities, he said he was not optimistic that legislation will pass banning guns in public buildings, but that support for a statewide smoking ban, at least in restaurants, may be growing.
But he lamented the practice, in the House of Delegates, of Republicans defeating measures they don’t like “unceremoniously” in sub-committee votes of 3-2.
With elections due in November 2009 for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, all state delegate and a third of state senate seats, Democrats are focusing on “the 51-21 rule,” he said, which means achieving majorities in both the Senate and House of Delegates.
In an interview with the News-Press Monday, Scott said that while Democrats need to pick up six Delegate seats to achieve a majority, they will be targeting 10 races in the fall.
He said that the state’s GOP leadership believes it can hold onto its majority even if three Northern Virginia delegates are unseated next November. GOP lawmakers at highest risk of being dumped are Del. David Albo, Del. Tim Hugo and Del. Tom Rust, all currently representing districts in Northern Virginia that went heavily for President-elect Barack Obama this month. Rust’s district went 63 percent for Obama, Albo’s 60 percent for Obama, and Hugo 55 percent for Obama.
Among the other seats Democrats feel they could capture in November are Del. Bob Marshall’s in Prince William and Del. Joe May in Loudoun County.
Long before next November, however, elections in January and June are also considered critical to many. In January, a special election to replace Congressman-elect Gerry Connolly as chair of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors will be held, and Democratic Supervisor Sharon Bullova will be running against Republican Supervisor Jack Herrity.
In June, there will be primaries for the November election, and for governor, Democrats will choose among three rivals: Del. Brian Moran, State Sen. Creigh Deeds and former Democratic National Chair Terry McAuliffe.
In the Falls Church area, it is reported that Del. Bob Hull will be challenged in a Democratic primary by Fairfax County School Board member Kaye Kory. Hull has represented the 38th District since 1992.
The legislature that is seated as a result of next November’s election will be in charge of redesigning all the state’s legislative, including U.S. congressional, districts following the 2010 U.S. Census.