After three terms in the General Assembly, the trip to Richmond should be old hat for Del. Robert Brink (D-48). But this year could be different, after his colleagues Karen Darner and James Almand both retired from their delegate seats, possibly setting up Brink as the senior member of a new Arlington delegation. That is, if the incumbent wins his bid for reelection in November.
The issues are similar to what he’s faced before, Brink said. The Assembly and Gov. Mark Warner (D) have made strides to improve government efficiency and secure funding for vital services like education, he said. “But unless we follow through on that commitment, we are in jeopardy of losing ground.”
Following through on education and health care commitments will require serious revisions to the state tax code, which is “unfair, archaic and doesn’t treat citizens fairly,” said Brink.
In previous years, Arlington’s delegates have met massive resistance in the General Assembly to proposals to revise the tax structure by raising the cigarette tax and increasing taxing powers for counties. Arlington’s County Board joined Fairfax County in requesting both methods of raising tax revenues during this year’s Assembly session.
Brink’s GOP opponents have hammered away at what they call an ineffective record for the incumbent. “Bob’s answer tends to be always looking for a tax increase that he can raise,” said David Avella, chair of the Arlington Republican Committee.
Brink’s supporters say that’s the wrong way of looking at the issues. For instance, raising the cigarette tax, which is currently the lowest in the nation, is “just not going to happen real soon, but that’s something that our folks are interested in pursuing down the road,” said Dan Steen, Arlington Democratic Committee chair. “We ask Bob Brink to go down there and articulate the values of this community, and he does that quite well.”
The incumbent has support from other elected officials as well. “Bob Brink is seasoned, astute, and effective,” said County Board member Jay Fisette (D). “Bob works tirelessly for education, the environment and the civil rights and human dignity we all deserve. We’re lucky to have him fighting for us in Richmond.”
BRINK HAS FOUND success passing legislation on a number of issues, including increasing health care coverage for children of low-income families.
If reelected, he plans to push for creation of Inspector General offices in each cabinet-level department in Richmond. The I.G. would have investigative and audit powers over each agency, which Brink said will improve efficiency and free up funds for essential services even if overall budget projections remain grim.
Brink supports Warner’s efforts to trim spending without affecting education funding, but said more can be done. Currently the state has 20 different contracts for purchasing computers. Those contracts should be consolidated, for instance, to give state officials greater bargaining power.
Even though the state faces a budget shortfall reaching potentially into the billions again this year, Brink said he expects some delegates to push an “ideological” agenda rather than addressing serious funding problems. He promises to oppose limitations on abortion rights.
“What the stridenly anti-choice forces are trying to do, since they can’t make abortion illegal, is to make it unavailable,” said Brink. “It is a real problem and a real threat.”
Brink has lived in Arlington over 25 years and served on the county’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee and Transportation Advisory Committee.
He worked 15 years as a Congressional staffer and in the U.S. Justice Department four years. Currently he is a legislative consultant for a government relations firm in Arlington. He has served in the General Assembly since 1997.