|Dear Friends and Neighbors,|
Greetings from Richmond! This past Wednesday, I headed down I-95 for the opening of the 2011 General Assembly session. As you know, we face some serious challenges. However, I feel truly blessed to be able to represent my community and to be part of a democratic tradition that stretches back 392 years!
Your feedback is important. Please respond to my 2011 Constituent Survey and attend my upcoming Town Hall meeting on Saturday, January 29th from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. at the Fairfax City Hall. I hope to see you there.
My 2011 Legislation
Thanks to everyone who provided me with ideas for my 2011 legislative agenda. I have introduced 15 bills (the maximum allowed) and one study resolution. I am also the chief co-patron for legislation dealing with transportation and veterans issues. I will talk more about my individual bills as the session moves along. In the meanwhile, here are just a few highlights:
- HB 2105 Plug-In Electric Vehicles - Not long ago, natural gas vehicles held out the promise of reduced reliance on foreign oil and improved air quality. Part of the problem, though, was convenience. There were very few places to "fuel up." Fast forward to today and we see the same situation for electric vehicles - lots of potential but no supporting infrastructure. It recently came to my attention that only a public utility can sell electricity in Virginia, which would present an insurmountable hurdle to this emerging technology. Working with the Governor's office, HB 2105 removes this roadblock and establishes a task force to evaluate and address any additional regulatory barriers.
- HB 2103 Above Ground Storage Tanks - In 1992, responding to the Pickett Road tank farm leak, Virginia finally strengthened the regulations governing large above ground storage tanks (ASTs). Ironically, older facilities like the one that caused the leak in the first place are not subject to the more stringent regulations - including several tanks that still operate at Pickett Road. This legislation will require these older tanks to finally upgrade to modern standards. Quick fact - just the largest ASTs in Virginia (facilities with more than a million gallons) have a capacity greater than 1.2 billion gallons.
- HB 2100 Family Day Care Background Checks - Many families in our area rely on quality in-home child day care. While these small businesses provide an invaluable service, it is also important to ensure that care providers are adequately vetted. Currently, local governments have the authority to require a state criminal background check for locally-licensed facilities. However, they don't have the authority to require a multi-state check when the state check indicates the potential for a multi-state issue. Given the transient nature of our region, this is a serious weakness in our licensing system. My bill gives Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax the ability to require multi-state background checks when warranted.
A full list of my bills can be found by clicking here.
Governor McDonnell's recently announced transportation package has sparked vigorous debate. Very few issues are more important to our quality of life than addressing our transportation needs. However, as with any proposal, it is important to understand the nuances - especially when it obligates future generations to pay for today's infrastructure improvements or includes selling off state assets (such as ABC stores). That is, the Governor's statement that his plan " ...pumps billions into roads, creates tens of thousands of new jobs, adds no new debt, starts work now, and doesn't raise taxes" needs to be weighed against the timeless adage "There is no such thing as a free lunch."
Over the next few weeks, I will do my best to keep you informed about specific proposals and how they affect Northern Virginia. For instance, the Governor's plan includes $1.1 billion in new bonds that would use future federal highway funds to pay off the debt and the acceleration of $1.8 billion in previously authorized transportation bonds. While interest rates and construction costs are at an all-time low, I have serious concerns about the proposal unless there is a clear plan for how to pay for this debt in the long-term. Another concern is that most of the money will go to a relatively few, large projects across the state and won't address more local concerns or road maintenance.
The Governor is also proposing to redirect .25% of the existing sales tax generated in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to regional transportation projects. That proposal will generate about $140 million a year for transportation - but will also require the General Assembly to cut the same amount from education, public safety, and similar programs since the sales tax currently supports the General Fund. That is something I don't support.
Apart from the Governor's plan, there are several other approaches being advocated by individual legislators. An interesting bill introduced by Delegate David Albo would impose the state corporate income tax on out-of-state corporations that provide services in Virginia. Currently, Virginia only imposes the corporate income tax on businesses located in the state. Maryland, the District of Columbia, and several other states already tax out-of-state corporations. Delegate Albo argues this actually penalizes Virginia businesses and serves as a disincentive for businesses to locate in Virginia. The legislation would generate about $200 million in revenue, which Delegate Albo proposes to go toward transportation maintenance.
Other proposals include: increasing the gas tax state-wide; making the gas tax a percent, like the sales tax, so that it increases with inflation; increasing fees on overweight vehicles; implementing a Northern Virginia-only approach that would increase the local recordation and sales taxes with the requirement that funds be spent in the region; and, studying the potential for tolls on major highways.
Finally, two proposals that I strongly support are changing the transportation maintenance funding formula so that it is based on an actual assessment of need (I am the chief co-patron of this bill, HB 1491) and enacting a constitutional "lock-box" amendment to ensure that the Transportation Trust Fund cannot be diverted for non-transportation purposes.
Your feedback on any of these proposals is very much appreciated. More updates to come!
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.