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Votes

Column: Listen to the Other Side of the Argument

— Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days in Richmond discussing legislation with our local delegation and other members of the General Assembly. Two of the leading topics being discussed were the transportation funding plans and State Senate redistricting. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a population of 8.1 million people making it the 12th most populated state in the country, less than 2 percent of the population lives in Alexandria. The majority of the elected Democrats live in Northern Virginia and often the message delivered to constituents does not represent the other side of the debate.

On transportation, Governor McDonnell has an aggressive funding plan that would eliminate the gas tax and raise the state sales tax to solve the growing traffic and congestion challenges we face.

There is much discussion about what the final plan will entail and both parties want to find a solution. Alexandrians need to be concerned about the plan the Senate passed. This includes the option for local municipalities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to tax residents' income. All of the senators representing Alexandria voted for this and Democrat Senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax said this is the worst scenario for Northern Virginia and I agree.

Unlike Maryland, it is currently against the law in Virginia for a local municipality to tax your income. Upon hearing the passing of the Senate bill, Mayor Euille expressed his satisfaction with having the option to put another tax on the incoming producing residents of Alexandria. No member of the Alexandria City Council has publicly opposed this idea and it appears the Republican-led House of Delegates, which will vote on this shortly, is the last line of defense to protect Alexandrians from this surtax on their income.

The other hotly debated topic in Richmond was the Republican state senators' proposal to redistrict state Senate lines. Redistricting and moving election dates is part policy and part politics. Virginia's 40 state senators each represent 200,000 Virginians. The party in power controls the redistricting process and the Senate Democrats controlled this process in 2011. Lines were drawn to protect incumbents and control power, leaving some senators representing numerous cities and communities.

In 2011, Republican state senators received a total of 200,000 more votes throughout Virginia than Democratic state senators. However, the way the lines were drawn, the Senate elections ended with 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the Senate. Alexandria has 140,000 residents and three different Democratic state senators due to the gerrymandered process.

The Virginia Senate redistricting plan died on the desk of the Republican Speaker of the House William Howell with input from Governor Bob McDonnell. This is an example of statesmanship when leaders put aside partisan politics and do what is right as opposed to what they are allowed to do for political gain.

Alexandrians are too often kept in the dark with a one party system in place but deserve to hear the rest of the story on issues that will impact their lives.