Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report


At the end of the third full week of the 2010 General Assembly session, we are still waiting for Governor McDonnell’s proposed changes to the two-year budget submitted by former Governor Kaine in mid-December.

McConnell and Kaine have agreed that the current budget timetable needs to be changed: the outgoing Governor should not commit the incoming Governor to re-working a two-year budget that the new team has had little time to review before the legislature begins its review.

This problem is exacerbated by the one-term limit of Virginia’s governors. Virginia is the only state that does not allow a governor to run for a second consecutive term.

Last month Governor Kaine submitted his second, and last, two-year budget.

McDonnell had very little to say about the Kaine submission. As a result, he has made it clear that he wants to make some major changes in the process.

It appears that he wants the timetable changed to allow the incoming Governor to submit his first two-year proposal at the end of his first year of service-in late November or early December, 2010. His second 2-year budget would be submitted in his third year in office-late 2012.

Governor McDonnell appears to have selected a talented team of leaders.

He has submitted some proposals for encouraging economic development. They seem to be willing to listen to new ideas and to continue the Kaine’s efforts to reach across the aisle to find partners to tackle the state’s major problems. He has also reiterated his promise not to raise taxes. But we have little idea of how he wants to deal with the multi-billion dollar shortfalls facing Virginia. Obviously there will be differences between a Republican Governor and House of Delegates and a Democratic Senate, but I remain hopeful that we can find new ways to address Virginia’s current challenges.

Needless to say, the Governor will have to deal with large reductions in public school aid to localities and to the increasing needs of Virginia’s outstanding system of higher education. Public education cuts of the size being discussed can easily undermine the job creation goals of the Governor. To address that problem, I have offered a bill that would allow localities to raise the sales tax by ½% without taxing food or prescription drugs. It would be a local, not state, tax increase, and it could raise as much as $80 million per year for Fairfax County schools, and a proportional amount for Falls Church schools.

The Governor seems to be willing to listen to new ideas and to continue the Kaine efforts to reach across the aisle to find partners to tackle the state’s major problems—education and transportation revenue shortfalls. He appointed Democrats to his transition teams charged with developing new ideas for solving the major problems we face. As a member of the finance transition team, as I suggested above, I have offered some suggestions to deal with the education and transportation funding shortages. Shortly, we will know whether they have been seriously considered.

Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at deljscott@aol.com