A broad new coalition of unions, nonprofits, environmental groups and others has been formed to challenge Virginia’s longstanding aversion to raising taxes when balancing the budget.
The new organization, Better Choices for Virginia, hopes to shift the terms of debate in Richmond from spending cuts to raising revenues as Virginia faces an estimated $800 million shortfall in the next two years. The group, whose members include the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia National Organization for Women, the Service Employees International Union, the Sierra Club and others, says the financial burden must be better balanced than it has been in recent years.
“If Virginia chooses to close this future budget shortfall with a cuts-only approach, it will impede our economic recovery and cost jobs in both the public and private sectors,” Michael J. Cassidy, president of the Commonwealth Institute, said in a written statement. “We need to preserve what works in Virginia and get the state back on course.”
The coalition also wants to re-write Virginia’s tax code to eliminate costly tax breaks that benefit corporations at the expense of public schools, health care and other services. The Commonwealth Institute, for example, documented 17 measures worth $30 million in new tax breaks passed by the Virginia General Assembly this year alone. While Virginia has slashed $6 billion from the budget to ride out the recession, lawmakers also have renewed other tax breaks, including a complicated $45 million-a-year provision for Virginia’s two most powerful electric utilities and the coal mines that supply them.