Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Here in the General Assembly we
take this day very seriously – with the
4th and 7th floors even having a competition
for the most decorations. It is a nice
diversion from an otherwise very busy week.
Next year, February 14th will also be
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day
in Virginia thanks to the efforts
of Lisa Greenfield and City Councilman Jeff
Greenfield. Jeff and Lisa are members of an
organization called Tender Hearts, which
provides support to the families of babies
born with a congenital heart defect. Based
on their advocacy, I introduced HJR 684 to
designate February 7th through 14th as
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week,
culminating on February 14th as Congenital
Heart Defect Awareness Day.
babies are born each year with a congenital
heart defect. In fact, it is the
number one cause of birth related infant
deaths in the United States. Much can,
and is, being done to reduce these figures.
However, the ability to make sure that a
heart defect doesn’t turn into tragedy
starts with awareness.
Two issues worth a mention this week
include a bill to change the
education funding formula
and an attempt to balance the budget using
the Water Quality Improvement
Education Funding –
In these tight fiscal times, I am naturally
suspicious of anything that sounds like a
formula change. This is particularly true
when dealing with education, since most
proposed changes result in less money for
Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax, not
more. However, HB 2063 proposed by Delegate
Phil Hamilton of Newport News intrigued me.
He proposed to save money by eliminating the
requirement for school systems to conduct a
triennial census of all children in the
locality – whether or not they go to a
public school. This figure is currently used
to distribute education funding. The
question then turned to what would be used
in its place. The answer is that funding
would be distributed based on average daily
student membership. As it turns out, there
are winners and losers to changing the
formula. But, for a change,
the City of
winners – by an estimated $3.9 million
if the bill were implemented today.
This became a no-brainer. I voted yes, as
did a majority of the House. The measure now
goes over to the Senate.
The Budget and the Water Quality
Improvement Fund – All told,
there were very few surprises this Thursday
as we took up amendments to the biennial
budget to address a $3 billion revenue
shortfall. With a few notable exceptions,
key proposals by the Governor were largely
left intact. One proposal that was rejected
was to raise the cigarette tax from 30¢
per pack to 60¢ per pack in order to
generate $150 million for Medicaid and other
health related services. Even at 60¢,
Virginia’s tax would be half of the
national average. By rejecting the increase,
the Appropriations Committee had to find a
way to fill the gap left in the budget.
What they chose to do is raid the
Water Quality Improvement Fund to the tune
of $149 million.
The Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF)
was established several years ago as a
separate, non-reverting fund to upgrade
wastewater treatment facilities –
including several here in Fairfax. These
upgrades are needed to reduce water
pollution and improve the health of the
Chesapeake Bay. As I have stated in the past,
I have a problem in general with diverting
revenue from funds set aside for special
purposes. It is very similar to why there is
a need for a constitutional amendment to
protect the Transportation Trust Fund.
However, the issue goes much deeper because
most of the money in the WQIF is already
committed to projects that are under
contract, under construction, and in many
cases, nearing completion.
While the argument was made that this
would be backfilled by expected economic
stimulus package money, I believe
that it is bad public policy to essentially
count the same money twice. As a
result, I voted against this measure.
Even though the budget has passed the
House, it is only the beginning of a long
process. This year, the process is
complicated by the eroding economy, which is
expected to result in the need for even
steeper cuts, and uncertainty about the
impacts of the stimulus package.
As always, please don’t hesitate to
contact me here in Richmond if you have any
questions or would like information on a
specific bill or budget item. Have a
© 2009 David
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