The Great Falls Friends recently had an opportunity to quiz Del. Vince Callahan (R-34) on the budget coming out of Richmond and its implications to residents. Callahan is the chair of the Appropriations Committee and has served in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1968. He represents the 34th District.
Callahan described the budget process this year as tumultuous and said that initially the budget presented to him “did not meet the needs of the commonwealth of Virginia.” One of the biggest issues, said Callahan, was that the budget would “tax higher-income brackets, which would negatively impact my constituents.”
Callahan stayed to work on the budget an extra 55 days to create a more balanced solution. “All in all, you had some moderate tax increases,” said Callahan. Included in these are a half-cent sales-tax increase and a hike in the cigarette tax of 25 cents this year and 30 cents next year. The recordation tax will also go up to 30 cents per $100. That’s still lower than most areas, however. Washington, D.C., for example, has a recordation tax of $3 per $100.
Several minor amendments are expected to be attached to the bill, according to Callahan. One is for funds to fight gangs in Northern Virginia, and the other is a scholarship fund dealing with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Others could be announced over the summer.
While several Great Falls Friends members complained about the high taxes levied on Northern Virginia residents, Callahan explained the increase is necessary to fund public programs. Eleanor Anderson said, “We pay so much in taxes, and we feel like we don’t get our fair share back.” Callahan countered that the area has “a disproportionately higher share of students going on to four-year universities.” He added, “Wealthier areas are going to pay more than the poorer areas. We make an attempt to change this every year, but we get shot down.”
The growth in the K-12 student population, the increase in students eligible for Virginia colleges, and the increase in the prison population were all cited by Callahan as reasons for the tax increases.
“By the end of this decade,” Callahan warned, “we will need room for 30,000 more students who are eligible for a state education.” One member of the Great Falls Friends suggested that in-state tuition be raised so that state schools would not have to take on as many out-of-state students. “Out-of-state students pay the freight and then some,” countered Callahan. “We’ve raised in-state tuition the last three years, and I think probably we’ve hit the rate as high as we can go.”
On the upside, Moody’s bond rating agency recently took Virginia off its watch list in response to the budget. The bond rating is vital to the state because it determines the interest rate set against AAA bonds.
John Adams said he “was one of the only people to ask Vince [Callahan] to raise my taxes and he didn’t.” Callahan said that he and his “compatriots” have been doing everything they can to keep taxes reasonable. He described the process as “brutal and tiring.” He added, “I’ve been accused of everything under the sun this year.” The budget is only one of 3,000 bills being discussed at the state Capitol, according to Callahan.