No Time Like Now

To Fix State Funding

Before the Virginia General Assembly's 2002 session, we had heard how bad the state's budget deficit was. We had also heard about the unfairness to Northern Virginia of the funding formulas used to redistribute state tax revenues.

The General Assembly made some budget cuts but did not address the underlying problems of the tax structure and funding formulas. At the same session, however, the legislators voted to allow Northern Virginia to consider raising the state sales tax for transportation, a measure that was soundly defeated Nov. 5.

Maybe they will begin to understand that voters in our area do not trust how tax revenues are distributed; they want the problem to be addressed and fixed.

Since the close of the General Assembly session last spring, the deficit has continued to grow. The governor has laid off state workers, closed DMV offices and cut road projects as a way to help reduce the deficit. Much more will probably be required. But proposals for local governments to take on a greater burden without further revenue sources are not the answer.

Now is the time to meet the underlying fiscal challenges head-on. The General Assembly will convene for its 2003 session on Wednesday. I recently heard from legislators from both major parties that "there is not the political will" to work on the tax structure this session because it is an election year. They suggest that this would have to be worked on at a special session, possibly in 2004.

Folks, it is always an election year in Virginia! Budget problems and the resulting problems of diminished state services will not go away or stop worsening while the legislators wait for "the perfect time." If now is not the time to address Virginia's fiscal problems, when is the right time?

We need true courage and leadership to address the underlying fiscal problems, evaluate and take action on studies and recommendations that have already been made by various commissions and groups, and make the hard decisions required.

Legislators have insisted that they "listen to their constituents" and address concerns brought to them by the voters. Since they apparently didn't fully understand the message sent on Nov. 5, I urge voters to contact their state senators and delegates and tell them to begin working on Virginia's tax structure and funding formula problems. This session is the time, and they must muster the "political will."

To contact their legislators, see the listings on Page 12 of today's Fairfax Extra or go to the League of Women Voters' Web site, www.lwv-fairfax.org, or look at our "Facts for Voters" booklet, available at county libraries.

Olga Hernandez

President,

League of Women Voters

Of the Fairfax Area