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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
March 2008

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This past week, I got to take a quick break from the usual legislative routine. First, I had the absolute honor of recognizing on the House Floor one of the 37th District’s very distinguished athletes. Evelyn Aguirre, a Fairfax High School student, represented the United States in the 2007 Special Olympics in China. Not only did she participate, but she placed 4th in the 50 meter run and won a Silver Medal in the softball throw. Next, I was asked to deliver the opening prayer at the beginning of the day’s session. In case you are interested, you can watch the video.

Last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the taxes and fees imposed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority are unconstitutional. This revenue, about $300 million annually, was earmarked for transportation and transit projects here in Northern Virginia, including improvements to the Fairfax County Parkway, Metro, and many other projects. While the taxes and fees aren’t unconstitutional per se, the Supreme Court held that the General Assembly could not pass the responsibility of imposing the taxes and fees on to the NVTA.

Regrettably, the ruling didn’t make our transportation crisis go away. So the question becomes, with one week left, where do we go from here? If I had my druthers, I’d love to step back and see if we can adopt a plan that is more sustainable. Many of the taxes and fees are convoluted and cumbersome to collect. But there is also political reality, and it took two years to get what we got. The two options currently being discussed are having the General Assembly take responsibility for the fees by imposing them directly, or throwing the decision to enact the taxes and fees on to individual localities. The latter seems like dereliction of duty on our part and unworkable from a regional standpoint – especially if a major player decided not to participate. While I will be pushing hard for my first choice, the likely scenario will be an up or down vote on one of the latter choices. Once I know more, I’ll be looking for your feedback.

In the meanwhile, storm clouds are gathering on another major issue – State funding for public education. While what is being proposed might help balance the State budget, the cost to educate our children hasn’t changed. The result will be to shift millions of dollars of the cost of public education to our local governments.

The following explanation is not for the faint of heart! Every two years, Virginia goes through a Constitutionally-mandated process called “re-benchmarking” to determine the cost of meeting our Standards of Quality. Based on that amount, the State provides its share of funding to local governments using the Local Composite Index (a flawed measure of local ability to pay – but that is another issue).

Under the current process, salaries for teachers and support staff are calculated based on an analysis of the “prevailing wage” – that is, the actual salaries being paid by school systems to remain competitive in the market place. This year, the House leadership is proposing to phase-out the prevailing wage model and to replace it with an annual percentage increase chosen by the General Assembly. As a result, re-benchmarking would no longer be a reflection of the actual cost of meeting the SOQs. Rather, it would simply be a reflection of what the General Assembly is willing to pay. Given Virginia’s less than stellar track record on pay raises, our local governments will be placed in a position of having to make up the difference between the General Assembly approved wage increase and the wage increase needed to stay competitive. Worse, the impact, year after year, is cumulative. To illustrate the magnitude of the issue, had the proposed changes been implemented in the biennium that is now being wrapped-up (FY06-07), local governments would have received $227 million less than what they actually received under the current methodology.

As with anything involving the State budget and funding formulas, there is more to the story. And, in fact, I even thought about trying to explain it in detail here. I quickly decided against the idea, but am more than happy to provide additional information upon request.

On a high note, my final piece of legislation (HB394) for the 2008 Session passed the Senate on Monday for a total of six successful bills. This bill was at the request of the Fairfax County Water Authority and grants water and wastewater authorities the right to own intellectual property rights. Yes, in Virginia local governments and authorities only have powers that are expressly granted to them. For instance, the Supreme Court once held that even though the Code authorizes local governments to buy and sell real property, that this did not give them the power to lease real property. You may be thinking, “Why would a water authority even need to protect intellectual property rights?” Our own Fairfax County Water Authority has been developing a state-of-the-art meter reading system that will greatly streamline its operations. In order to protect the investment made by the system’s rate payers, the FCWA is seeking patent protection. Now they actually can!

There will be lots more to report by the end of the week! Until then, please don’t hesitate to contact me here in Richmond.


David Bulova

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Delegate David Bulova

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Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 310-6752
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Richmond, VA 23219
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