Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), elected in August, is one of several freshman lawmakers from Northern Virginia heading to Richmond for the 2003 General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday. Cuccinelli spoke about his goals for the session with staff writer Steven Ginsberg.
QNow that you've helped defeat the sales tax increase, how do you propose to solve the region's transportation crisis?
A There are a number of different steps that we can take to alleviate congestion. These involve cost-effective projects, channeling more funding to transportation, coordinating transportation needs and land use and expanding partnerships with the private sector.
The most cost-effective project would be to dynamically integrate traffic light patterns, changing them in response to traffic.
Regarding funding, we would like to see the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project reduced from the current divided 12-lane design to a traditional 10-lane design. This would free up more than $500 million for other projects in Northern Virginia and reduce the impact of the new bridge. . . .
One significant opportunity, in conjunction with Maryland, would be to solicit bids from private companies to build an expanded Route 301 as a Washington-Baltimore bypass -- paid for by tolls from those passing through the region.
One of the strongest messages that voters expressed on Nov. 5 was that they don't trust state lawmakers. How do you plan on changing that perception?
The first step that I will take to begin to restore the faith of Virginia citizens in their state government is to push a bill that would make the Virginia budget "transparent," by which I mean that anyone could pick up the budget and figure out how much each program costs, how many employees does it utilize, what are the goals of that particular program and what is the track record of measured outputs.
How hard will you fight for an adequate public facilities measure, impact fees or other growth control proposals?
This area is a real tightrope walk for me. I support legislation to coordinate land use and transportation infrastructure, but we must always be careful not to trample property rights.
What are some of the bills you are proposing?
One would shift the burden of proof in tax assessment cases from the taxpayer to the Department of Taxation. A second bill would cap real estate tax increases at a maximum of 5 percent per year or the combination of population growth plus inflation, so we can finally get some relief from skyrocketing real estate taxes. A third bill would cap state spending increases at the combination of inflation plus population growth, with the excess going to either the rainy day fund or being refunded to taxpayers.
Would you support a tax increase on cigarettes or alcohol? Would you support a new tax of any kind?
It is my strong belief that Virginians, especially Northern Virginians, are already taxed too much, so I would not support any new taxes.
However . . . in some circumstances I would support user fees.