Legislators Speak on Budget Issues

Legislators Speak on Budget Issues

State Sen. William “Bill” Mim’s Christmas wish is for “steady, predictable prosperity.”

“That’s one thing I haven’t had quite enough of,” Mims told the Board of Supervisors at Monday’s board meeting. Mims (R-33), state Sen. Russell Potts, Jr. (R-27) and Dels. Richard "Dick" Black (R-32), Robert "Bob" Marshall (R-13), Joe May (R-33) and Thomas "Tom" Rust (R-86) spoke to the board about the upcoming legislative session, briefly discussing the board’s 2003 Legislative Package. The package includes 18 items board members voted on later in the meeting to show or decline their support.

“I … believe you’re on the up slope,” said May, adding that he expects the state’s economy in fiscal year 2004 to reflect that of the 1996-97 legislative term. However, Mims said, “We find we’re in the deepest recession in more than 40 years.”

Mims gave his reasons: the business cycle, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack and the Internet technology company layoffs. “I certainly hope you don’t have to go through the level of pain the state has gone through,” he said.

THE LEGISLATIVE delegation answered board member questions regarding budget cuts, state funding and local taxes.

Chairman Scott York (R-At large) asked where Loudoun County stands with reopening the Sterling Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, one of 12 offices closed in October.

Gov. Mark Warner (D) closed the offices after removing $15 million in DMV license fees from the Transportation Trust Fund — generated through a half-cent sales tax initiated in 1986 — and placed the money in the state’s General Fund, Black said. The governor closed the DMV offices a week later.

“I have to wonder why it’s being done,” Black said. “This is one of the most intensely used DMV offices in the Commonwealth.”

“That place is packed. … It must have been making a lot of money,” said Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), adding that he believes the office was closed for political reasons. “The money for this agency is supposed to go back to this district.”

Mims said the office does not meet modern standards as do the state’s newer facilities. “Every public servant makes mistakes. The closing of the Sterling DMV was flat out inequitably a mistake. We are going to do everything we can as a legislature to change that,” he said. “There’s substantial possibility the General Assembly will reverse its decision.”

SUPERVISOR Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) said Loudoun County would like “to see more of its fair share” from the state. In response, the delegates explained the different funding sources provided by the state and the county’s share of each source.

May addressed the state income tax. “Do I expect change? Yes,” he said. Currently, the county receives about one-fifth of the tax employees pay to the state. However, Loudoun will not be able to receive 100 percent of the tax back, since the county’s share is more heavily distributed to the southern and southwestern parts of the state, which do not have the funds to support themselves, he said.

The funds the state does not provide have to be made up locally, mainly through property taxes, said Supervisor William Bogard (R-Sugarland Run). “My house doesn’t go to school. My house doesn’t go to jail. That’s the biggest source of revenue,” he said.

Mims talked about the state’s composite index formula, used to determine the amount of funding each county receives for basic education as dictated by the state’s Standards of Quality. The formula is “unfair for counties” with high land values, he said.

Loudoun County receives 32 percent of what it needs to fund basic education, while the poorest counties receive 80 percent and the richest counties 20 percent.

“We’re trying to be more creative to provide greater funds to Loudoun,” Mims said, mentioning that the state provides funding for capital improvements and the Standards of Learning.

SUPERVISOR James Burton (I-Mercer) asked the delegation to interpret what voters meant by turning down the sales-tax referendum, which would have provided funding for transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

Black said the voters do not like being overtaxed and are concerned that too much of their money is sent to the southern part of the state. “People were overburdened by taxes,” he said.

Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run) blamed the sales tax for not being well crafted. “The projects were precisely what this Board of Supervisors asked us to put in,” Mims said, adding that the projects proposed for the tax funding were included in the state’s 2020 transportation plan.

About the upcoming legislative session Rust said, “We do face a difficult 46 days.”