Senior citizens from throughout Fairfax County's Lee District were warned last Saturday that tax cuts by the state and federal governments "will cause problems with services for senior citizens for years to come."
That was the dire prediction of U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8th) delivered to the more than 100 attendees assembled at the seventh annual Town Meeting hosted by Lee District supervisor Dana Kauffman at Lane Elementary School.
Moran said, "The tax cuts put in place by former Gov. Gilmore are going to haunt us for years. It was done purely for political expediency with no alternative funding in mind.
"The car tax was not liked. But the revenue stream needed to be replaced. Gilmore had no intention of doing so."
This was exacerbated, according to Moran, at the federal level by the tax cut passed by this Congress. "It was a horrible idea. It will take about $2 trillion out of the budget over the next 10 years, and a lot of that will have to be borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund."
He went on to explain, "The big pieces will come in 2004, 2006 and 2009. And the biggest benefits of the tax cuts go to only 1 percent of the wealthiest portion of the population. We went from a $100 billion surplus to a $160 billion deficit.
"We never should have passed that tax cut. We rewarded ourselves with a tax cut while ignoring our responsibilities to seniors and future generations. It's today's generation of young people who are going to carry the burden for this."
MORAN BLAMED THE federal tax cut for not putting prescription drugs under Social Security and for less spending on education. "We will have $90 million less for education this year than last. And because of the midterm election, there will probably be no more money bills passed this year. We need to rearrange our priorities in this country," he insisted.
The one positive impact of the tax cut, Moran pointed out, was that "there will be no privatization of Social Security because, as a result of the tax cuts, there is not enough money to guarantee the security of the fund."
Joining Kauffman and Moran on the dais were state Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller (D-36th), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Katherine K. Hanley, and various representatives of county and public services. Their presentations, followed by a question-and-answer period, were the culmination of the five-hour event, which provided an opportunity for attendees to meet with representatives of the various organizations.
"I decided to emphasize senior citizens this year in order to highlight not only the services available but also the volunteer opportunities in which they can participate and the many areas for continued learning," Kauffman said.
"Usually it's about just services. This year it's services and opportunities. I realized that about the time I'm turning over the car keys to my 6-year-old, I might have to be restricting them to my dad," he emphasized.
PULLER DISCUSSED a bill she had introduced in the state legislature regarding the mishandling of patients in nursing homes. "We are trying to get Medicaid increased so that people will have better choices. But, in many ways, we are a very cheap state," she said.
Hanley built on that comment by noting, "Our revenue streams are flat. We are trying to finance all services and balance them on a two-legged stool. We need more legs."
She also warned, "Reading the Nov. 5 ballot is going to be a real challenge with the various bond issues, the tax referendum, and the various candidates. If the tax referendum doesn't pass, we will have no revenue stream for transit. There's not much choice if we feel congestion needs to be addressed."
In making her point for passage of the upcoming tax referendum, Hanley circulated a map diagramming the 16 highway and transit projects to which proceeds from the increased sales tax would be allocated.
"Our [Fairfax County] section of the secondary road improvements from the referendum amount to $90 million," Hanley told the audience. She backed up that statement with a list of projects approved by the Board of Supervisors on July 22, 2002. It listed the following:
* Major capacity and safety improvements. Four projects totaling $73.5 million;
* Intersection capacity and safety improvements. Ten projects totaling $5.8 million;
* Pedestrian access and safety improvements. Five projects totaling $11 million. This list includes nine trail and sidewalk projects throughout the county.
THOSE REPRESENTED by information displays at the Town Meeting and with spokespersons on the panel included Fairfax County Agency on Aging, Fairfax County Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia Community College Life Learning Institute, Inova Health Services, Hospices of the National Capital Region, Fairfax County Department of Community and Recreation Services, Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs, AARP, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project and the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office.