What good is our GA?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 27, 2003

James D. Campbell, executive director of the Virginia Association for Counties, rightly took members of the Virginia General Assembly to task recently. In a piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Campbell pointed out that while Virginia faced a nearly $2 billion budget gap on top of the state’s $2.4 billion revenue deficit during the 2002 session, legislators did nothing during the 46-day session this year to address the fundamental changes necessary to ensure that locally provided services – including education, health, mental health, and public safety – have a reliable revenue stream based

Its members, by and large, are interested in nothing except getting re-elected. The only way to do that is to raise money and take an oath on your mother’s life that you would sell your daughter into slavery before you voted to raise any tax.

Campbell’s point is that while legislators can come home and tell their gullible constituency that they held the line against taxes, the reality of their pass-the-buck legislating is that citizens are going to be stuck with the bill anyway through higher local taxes.

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Campbell also rails against unfunded and underfunded General Assembly mandates, particularly education. Virginia underfunds its own mandates in the Standards of Quality by $1.06 billion each biennium. While our state ranks 13th in per capita income, we rank 40th in the nation in state funding of K-12 education.

From 1992 to 1997, Virginia’s highways deteriorated faster than highways in the rest of the nation, according to the Federal High Administration. The Virginia Department of Transportation reports that 1,112 bridges in Virginia are rated as deficient. The cost of replacing or repairing them is estimated at $863 million.

These are Mississippi-like numbers and should be an embarrassment to all Virginians.

&uot;Instead of addressing these needs,&uot; Campbell writes, &uot;during the 2002 update of the Six-Year Plan, the Commonwealth Transportation Board eliminated 166 projects totaling approximately $3 billion.&uot;

How’s that for progressive, forward-thinking leadership?

About all our General Assembly is good for anymore is seeing to it that plaques can be put in school hallways, and that Virginia continues to supply its residents with an unfettered flow of cheap cigarettes. Young American men and women are fighting and dying on foreign soil to protect our way of life, many of them residents of Virginia. It’s a shame that their state leaders lack the backbone to provide the children of those soldiers with a quality education or a safe road to drive on, which it is their responsibility to do.

They should be ashamed of themselves.

But they’re not. They’re actually proud they held the line against new state taxes and they are going to be coming to you soon asking for your money and vote so they can go back to Richmond and do more of the same.

&uot;When political candidates start making ‘no-new state tax pledges’ this fall, ask them if this is really putting the burden on local taxes to make up the difference.&uot; Campbell advises.

He makes a good point. And while you’re at it, ask them if their vision of 21st-century Virginia is that of a state full of semi-literate, chain-smoking morons plunging to their deaths from decrepit bridges, because that is the one they are giving us.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.