Since my last column, Falls Church has elected new leaders to the City Council and to the School Board. As a former local elected official, I know how important their jobs are -and how difficult they can be at times like these when revenues are scarce and/or declining. I look forward to working together to come up with new resource streams and new local flexibility in dealing with transportation and education funding that will allow localities to serve local needs better.
In the short run, I am hopeful that the commissions established by Governor Bob McDonnell to review and recommend proposals on the privatization of liquor sales, reform of government, reform of higher education will be successful in coming up with new ideas to improve and increase revenues for higher education, public education and transportation. I anticipate considerable discussion about the recommendations of the commissions. I am hopeful that some new thinking about how Virginia students can complete post-secondary education in Virginia’s outstanding community colleges and four-year degree granting institutions will result in improvements and expansions that will address the needs of an increasingly diverse populations.
From my perspective, state government needs to be more flexible in addressing local revenue shortfalls and in aiding local governments innovate by rewarding outstanding leadership and creativity, rather than restricting local flexibility. For example, if the state cannot find ways to generate more revenues for transportation and education, it should give localities the authority to do so. As an example, allowing a local sales tax increase for public education should be considered as long as the increase could not be applied to food and drugs. Also, the state should devote a portion of new technology resources to aiding localities in reducing congestion on roads and highways.
This year, the General Assembly and the Governor agreed to ask Virginia voters to agree increased real estate tax relief for totally disabled veterans or his or her surviving spouse. The General Assembly also agreed to an amendment on the ballot this year to allow localities to provide real estate tax exemptions for residents older than 65 or totally and permanently disabled. These measures are good steps toward a fairer revenue system.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]