GONE IS THE JOY of yesteryear in Richmond
--there is no healthy green surplus in the state's treasury anymore. Today, as the 1982 General Assembly gathers, the operative word for a less operative budget is spelled s-h-o-r-t-a-g-e; and even a new Democratic governor with a legislature to match will face the classic unpleasant options: tax more, do less--or do both. And unless Charles S. Robb is a magician, the view from the governor's office had best include something resembling a tax-increase package.
That's not what Mr. Robb had in mind for Virginians when he campaigned for their votes, but neither did he promise them sharp reductions in the services that the state and federal governments provide, such as Medicaid, welfare assistance or aid to the mentally and physically handicapped. Here again, even a knowledgeable incoming secretary of human resources--Joseph L. Fisher, former congressman from Arlington--has warned that what money exists will have to be stretched just to "protect the truly, truly needed programs."
Similarly, Virginia's roads and rails will suffer unless some relief is found in gasoline taxing--and therein lie the makings of either an old rural-urban feud or a new era of desperation-cooperation to finance a balanced transportation program. Everyone knows which of these legislative courses makes more sense, but few would bet on it. Still, the Northern Virginia delegation is right to have warned that it will oppose any tax increase for state highways unless it guarantees additional money for Metro and other regional needs.
If there is a bright spot on this opening day, it is that Virginia turns to a fresh administration with welcome vitality and impressive talent, reflecting a more representative leadership in the state capital. That may not translate into immediate legislative success--but it's not a bad way to begin a challenging legislative session.