Local Commentary

Delegate Jim Scott’s Richmond Report

Nearing “crossover” with uncertainty

Each year at roughly the mid-point in the General Assembly session,

the focus of each house changes from bills introduced in one house to

bills introduced in the other. For example, this year all bills introduced by members of the House of Delegates must be acted on by next Tuesday, February 10. Bills introduced in the Senate must be acted on by same day.

Any bill not acted on by the original body dies on Tuesday-the day of “crossover.”

Having been first elected in 1991, I have served in the legislature through some difficult economic times—the Wilder, Gilmore and Warner administrations. None equaled the potential for uncertainty and challenge of the current economic situation in Virginia.

It is now clear that we entered this fiscal year, beginning last July 1, with state revenues falling far short of our basic needs. As in the other forty-nine states, Virginia revenues for public education, higher education, transportation, Medicaid, mental health and disability services funded face staggering reductions.

At the time of this writing, the exact of the shortfall and the nature and extent of the Federal stimulus package are unclear. Some dollars appear to be targeted to restore state government cuts to the 2008 level in public education operating funds. Other state assistance would be in the form of flexible funding for education and other government services. But, by law, our Budget is supposed to on the Governor’s desk by the last day in February.

We can’t meet that deadline unless we know what our revenues are. We know that we have a shortfall in range of $3 billion in the next FY 2010 beginning July 1. But we don’t know exactly how large that number will be.

And we have great doubt that we will know what help we might be receiving from the Federal government.

On transportation, one requirement for receipt of Federal funds appears to be that the area is “economically distressed.” Needless to say, that would be disastrous for Northern Virginia. I circulated a letter among Northern Virginia delegates and senators that we sent to our members of the U.S. House and Senate asking that they change that criteria so that our area can be certain to qualify for desperately needed road and transit dollars. We have not had a response from any of our members of Congress, but local and state staffs are very concerned. That provision must be changed.