New Virginia Currency, Crossover, Transportation and the State Budget

Del. Surovell provides an update from Richmond.

Last week in the General Assembly we hit “Crossover” on Tuesday – the day that each body must complete all work on their own bills.  On Monday, I was in the capitol building from 7:30 a.m. until our session ended around 9 p.m. 

That day, the House of Delegates passed legislation dedicating $17,440 of taxpayer funds to study the creation of a Virginia currency in case the Federal Reserve System fails. It passed on a mostly party-line vote. 

Minutes later, we also passed legislation condemning the United Nations’ Agenda 21 which the U.N. adopted  in 1992. The bill describes Agenda 21 as a “radical plan of purported ‘sustainable development’ [that] envisions the American way of life of private property ownership, single-family homes, and individual freedoms as destructive to the environment.”    

The same night, the House  also passed legislation asserting Virginia’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to counter “the loss of rights and prosperity” occasioned by the Federal Government , according to proponents.

I voted no on these three bills. I hope the legislature will devote attention to more pressing problems, like our transportation, education, expanding healthcare, and preventing gun violence.

The transportation debate  continues to percolate. On Tuesday, we passed Governor McDonnell’s plan with some amendments. The legislation  repeals the gas tax and replaces it with a 5.8% sales tax on all purchases.  A $100 annual hybrid vehicle fee was removed.  A major source of revenue in the bill relies on Congress requiring all states to collect sales taxes for internet sales.  That legislation has been pending in Congress for 10 years without agreement.  The McDonnell  legislation barely generates any new revenue and it only passed the House by three votes.  The Senate has failed to pass any transportation bills, but senators are engaged in discussions. 

I still oppose the Governor’s plan. Decoupling revenue from road use is a radical concept and not justified. Making users pay is fair, in my view.  Funding roads exclusively with sales taxes disproportionately burdens the elderly who drive less than others and people who do not own cars.  Most importantly, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT),the state’s long-term revenue shortfall is over $100 billion over twenty years or about $5 billion per year.  None of the solutions under discussion come anywhere close to meeting that need. 

Given that we seem to be addressing this problem on something longer than the cicada cycle, I strongly believe that if we are going to address this, we need to fix it for the next 20 years and not the next five. If we take twenty-seven years to come back to this, I will be sixty-eight years old and my grandchildren will be at Waynewood by the time we are back at the table. I strongly believe that if we are going to address the state’s transportation deficits, the solution should be for the next 20 years, not the next five. 

My legislation to reform the composition of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) died in the House  by two votes after a block from Hampton Roads defected due to problems with the Governor’s overall transportation plan.  The CTB decides which projects get funded.  Northern Virginia has one seat out of ten even though the Northern Virginia Transportation District has over 20% of the state’s population.  When Hampton Roads and Richmond are included the urban-suburban crescent has 65% of the population and 33% of the votes.  I have serious reservations about entrusting the CTB with more money until it is reformed.

On Thursday, we passed House amendments to the state budget.  While I was pleased that three of my budget amendments were included, the budget still diverts education, public safety and health care funds to transportation. That is unprecedented in Virginia history.  It also has funding for several new programs I oppose, including the Governor’s plan to create a centrally-controlled, unaccountable school district for non-performing schools.  

If you have  feedback or questions, please send me an email at scottsurovell@gmail.com. I welcome your views. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.

Isle D Belle February 13, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Have the Virginia republicans lost their minds? Are they total idiots? I expect this kind of talk from Ted Nugent, but not from supposed adults who actually had to prove their worth to the voters to get elected. I oppose funding a study using my tax dollars to evaluate establishing a Virginia currency in case the Fed fails. Where is Cuccinelli when I want my rights enforced? If that lunacy is not enough, passing legislation condemning the United Nations’ Agenda 21, adopted in 1992 - 30+ years ago, which calls the UN action radical. Well I suppose that would be true if you lived in the middle ages. How stupid are these legislators? Oh, yeah, I forgot, these are the old white guys who deny cilmate science and evolution, too. And just to make sure they wasted more tax dollars, they approved legislation asserting Virginia’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to counter “the loss of rights and prosperity” occasioned by the Federal Government. Wow, that accomplished a lot. More time wasted. I hope their constituents understand the reality of what these state legislators are doing with their tax dollars. I also oppose Governor Bobby's transportation plan. It makes no sense to decouple the gas tax, which is paid by VA residents and anyone else who drives through VA and needs to gas up in favor of imposing a higher sales tax which also affects people whose sole method of transportation might be public transportation.


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