State Del. Vince Callahan (R-34) is signaling that the budget is not quite complete and that he expects Gov. Mark Warner to offer amendments this summer. Callahan, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, spoke during the Tysons Civitan Club 20th Anniversary meeting, expressing disdain for the budget process so far.
“This has been the most trying time that’s ever been in my political career,” said Callahan of the last six months of budget talks. “Hopefully we’ll go to the middle of June and we’ll have it all wrapped up and I can enjoy my life again,” Callahan said.
“The governor will send down some amendments. Hopefully they will not be so egregious,” Callahan told the group. He said he has had several disputes with the governor already over the budget. Callahan expects the amendments to be small. “He announced one yesterday on a special strike force to deal with gang activity here,” said Callahan. “There will be a few other odds and ends but nothing significant.”
Given that the average growth in the region is 5 percent, when peaks and valleys are factored in, Callahan said there will be a surplus this year that will likely be tucked away into a rainy day fund. “I don’t think it’s going to be that high. Maybe 100 to 150 million. But, to put that in perspective, that’s only 1 percent of the state budget. That’s not much of a cushion,” said Callahan.
SEVERAL MEMBERS of the Civitans quizzed Callahan on the governments seeming reliance on Northern Virginia revenues in the state budget and how that would affect residents in the near future. Transportation emerged as a major issue. “In the future, there will be no more money for develop[ing roads]. It will be going into maintenance,” said Callahan. He reaffirmed his support for the Dulles Rail and stressed that businesses in the Tysons area and beyond were paying a special tax to fund the project.
In response to a recently released study on traffic patterns, between Virginia and Maryland, over the American Legion Bridge, and suggestions that another bridge could be constructed to lighten the load, Callahan said, “There’s tremendous opposition to that,” but did concede that the lack of bridges over the Potomac River contribute to congestion problems. “9/11 showed what a crisis we have around here in getting from Virginia to Maryland,” said Callahan of the problems created during the emergency when citizens fled the Capital en masse after the Pentagon was hit by one of the planes controlled by terrorists.
Callahan spoke in favor of the tax increase saying, “I’m sort of in the middle there.” Taxing and spending, Callahan explained, are what the government does. But he added that it’s no longer fashionable to call them tax increases. “What we like to call them now is revenue enhancements,” said Callahan.
Forty percent of the Virginia income tax revenue is derived from Northern Virginia. This prompted one Civitan to ask if there was an end in sight or if people moving into the area would be priced out and move to other, cheaper locales. Callahan acknowledged the high-prices of real estate in Northern Virginia but said that anyone moving to the area to work here but live in another district was “going to have problems driving” due to the traffic congestion on arterial highways.
CALLAHAN WAS CLEAR the hike in the cigarette tax was appropriate. “Everybody said we could raise the cigarette tax. Even Phillip Morris said we could raise the cigarette tax,” said Callahan.
Civitan Joe Bartlett said that Callahan “is probably the most pre-eminent Virginian of our time” and that the club was pleased to have him speak and answer their questions. “We are a community organization and these are matters of the utmost concern to the community and to us. He can share an insight that perhaps no one else in the legislature can,” said Bartlett. Callahan has been in government since 1968.
Having Callahan speak at the groups 20th anniversary was intended to add weight to the milestone. Seventeen of the past 20 presidents of the Tysons Civitans attended the invitation-only event. Civitan is an international organization dedicated to doing good works and assisting in the lives of others. According to current president Betty Gail Elliott, “Over the last 20 years $219,633 has been given away to charities.”
Civitan Barbara Timerberlake-Haller added, “Our hands are doing the work. It’s more than just writing checks.”