As they settle into the squabbling of the legislative season. Virginia's new legislators must decide how to make good on their campaign promises, specificially to save gas, spend less money, increase tax relief and lower utility bills.
Other big economic questions this session will be what limits are necessary to cut spending should be state's sales tax be phased out, and how should the state fund its supplemental retirement system which affects may state employes and teachers.
"Some employes are getting greater benefits after they retire," said Lee Frazier, a lobbyist for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. "Some (legislators) are advocating that new (workers) entering the system should have a different formula for getting benefits."
During subcommittee hearings last summer and fall popular issues included gasohol getting rid of the state manufacturing tax, providing income tax credits for businesses investing to declining neighborhoods, lowering or eliminating taxes on residential fuel oil bills and limiting the state taxing authority.
Some legislators are considering proposals to test an income tax credit plan for businesses that train the hard-core unemployed or beautify the declining neighborhoods in which they've located.
There also have been suggestions of lowering consumers' state sales tax on fuel oil from 4 cents on the dollar to 1 cents or eliminting the tax because of fuel oil's comparatively high cost. That legislation would help many residents cope with high fuel bills next winter.
On the other hand, Virginia Gov. John K. Dalton is considering taking a 4 percent sales tax on wholesale gasoline prices.
Also in the energy area, some legislators have considered some types of support of gasohol, which could prove popular in Virginia farmlands where corn, a common ingredient in making alcohol for gasohol, is expected to surpass previous crop levels.
New legislation is also being considered to give tax rebates to farmers who sell their corps to produce the alcohol for gasohol. Another suggestion is supporting an experimental farm to manufacture alcohol for gasohol for use in state vehicles.
Still, other legislators are investigating special low interest loan plans and tax breaks for communities interested in constructing or restarting hydroelectric plants to save money. The electricty from plants is considered cheaper than that bought from the Virginia Electric Power Co.
Another issue could be the lifeline utility rate issue, which means customers who use more energy are charged higher rates rather than giving them a break as is done now. Lifeline rates are intended to help low income persons pay their bills, but Frazier said, "the onus will be put on business. Commercial users will suffer."
For those who consider saving energy, some legislators are considering increasing previous allocations for jurisdictions to invest, in resource recovery plants which turn garbage into fuel. Two years ago the state authorized the awarding of $2,500 plus 5 cents per capita to each jurisdiction interested in starting such a plant.
But since the state's motorists have excelled at saving gasoline, Frazier said the state is lasting revenue from the state's 9-cents-a-gallon sales tax.
Legislators are considering increasing that or taking on a percentage tax or adding a sales tax, Frazier said.