Opinion: Commentary: End of Session Nears

Opinion: Commentary: End of Session Nears

It is hard to believe, but the last week of the General Assembly has arrived and we hope to gavel out by this coming Saturday. This past week was very busy as we tried to complete work on bills from opposite chamber and negotiated amendments to the budget.

First, the Governor and the money committees announced an agreement regarding tax conformity and the revenue side of the budget. The compromise provides a $110 refund for each tax return (individual or joint) this year. From 2020 to 2026, it increases the standard deduction at the state level by $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for joint filers – resulting in $86 in savings for individuals and $172 for couples. The bill also removes the $10,000 cap on itemized deductions for state taxes. Given the state income tax is only 5.75 percent, the tax relief afforded is about $57.50 for every $1,000 of additional mortgage interest, state or local property taxes paid over and above $10,000.

I was not happy with this proposal for several reasons. First, it takes about $450 million per year out of the state budget which could fund desperately underfunded General Fund (non-transportation) priorities such as secondary education, higher education, childcare, healthcare, safety net, environmental protection, parks, and public safety. Second, most of the people receiving the bulk of these cuts are already receiving big federal tax cuts while we run the biggest deficits in United States history instead of following the Governor’s proposal to target modest tax relief targeted to low wage working Virginia families. This week, negotiators will attempt to finalize the expenditure side of the budget.

Next, my legislation to modernize child support collection continued to move through the process. There is over $2.4 billion of delinquent child support in Virginia. When child support goes unpaid with low income families, it is often paid by taxpayers through the state’s Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) and it is recovered through the Commonwealth’s Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE). In the last five years, child support deadbeats have begun to seek employment with “gig economy” companies as independent contractors such as Uber and Lyft who are exempt from child support withholding. My legislation would change that and passed the Courts Civil Subcommittee by one vote.

My legislation to change the Town of Dumfries Town Charter to move elections from May to November passed the full House and Senate. There is no need for taxpayers to fund separate elections, especially when they result in much lower turnouts.

The legislation I introduced to create a pilot project to provide Fairfax County with an additional tool to fund underground utilities on U.S. 1 passed the House Commerce and Labor Committee and should be up for a final vote this Tuesday.

Next, my bill to give Fairfax County authority to fine retailers for rogue shopping carts after refusing to pick them up for 10 days failed in a House subcommittee on a tie vote. Several Mount Vernon and Springfield residents testified about the disruption loose carts cause in neighborhoods, sidewalks, and the environment – I have now removed over 250 shopping carts from Little Hunting Creek alone. We will try again next year.

Also, my bill to enhance prohibit cars from illegally passed other cars by using bike lanes and creating a new serious traffic offense for seriously injuring a cyclist or pedestrian while distracted passed the House Transportation Committee, but was killed by the House Courts of Justice Committee. Many rural members do not understand the need for better cycling safety rules.

Finally, my legislation to creates consequences for destroying public records to avoid a Freedom of Information Act passed, but only after fines for violating the state’s public meetings law were removed. I am moving the bill into a conference committee to negotiate a compromise because the closed meeting rule is routinely abused.

Finally, on Wednesday, I held my annual Facebook Townhall. Over 56 constituents posted questions and about 1,500 have viewed the 90-minute town hall. You can watch the recorded version on my official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/surovell.

Please contact me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any questions. It is an honor to represent you in the Senate of Virginia.