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Del. Ken Plum: Balancing Virginia’s Budget Based on Needs

by Del. Ken Plum — July 13, 2017 at 10:15 am 11 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

During the primary election season when both parties in Virginia were making their selection of a candidate for governor, one candidate who went on to get his party’s nomination proposed the clincher of a policy proposal to secure his success in the election: a billion-dollar tax cut!

For those who have been around the state for some time it may sound familiar; the successful car tax cutting proposal that elected a previous governor is still costing the state about a billion dollars each year. That cut was particularly ironic in that it had the state cutting a local tax by reimbursing the localities for taxpayers. It was great for Northern Virginians as less wealthy downstate taxpayers reimburse the wealthiest jurisdictions in a reverse “Robin Hood” plan.

Before voters jump at a promise of reduced taxes, I hope there will be a serious consideration of the consequences. Virginia prides itself on being a “balanced budget” state; its revenues cover its operational expenses. Borrowing is permitted under the State Constitution for capital projects when approved by voters unless the project raises enough revenue to pay for itself. All that is good with a major exception. At no time does the state quantify its needs in order to determine what the cost of government would be if the state met its responsibility in providing funding. Two examples are offered below to make my point.

The first example is the state’s refusal to fund education at the level it has in the past and that is required by the Constitution. A report by the Commonwealth Institute, “State Cuts Mean Fewer Staff and Resources for Virginia Students,” in April 2017 makes the point.

“Statewide, state support has fallen 11 percent per student since 2009 in real dollars. This has impacted the ability of schools to maintain staffing and facilities. Across the state, school divisions have about 2,800 fewer staff than they had in 2009, despite growing enrollment. If they had kept pace with enrollment growth, Virginia’s schools would have 10,400 more staff instructing students and making sure the schools run smoothly.”

The other example is in health care. The Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic in Wise County is well known having been featured on an edition of 60 Minutes. There, thousands of Virginians receive their health care for the year in a weekend clinic held on the local fair grounds. The federal Affordable Care Act did not help as the legislature would not take federal monies to expand Medicaid that would have helped these people in need. The state turned its back on nearly $5 billion paid into the federal system by Virginia taxpayers because it did not want to have anything to do with what it termed Obamacare. What has happened in the meantime? A second RAM weekend clinic has been opened in Lee County nearby to Wise in Southwest Virginia, and a new clinic has been started in Emporia in Greensville County in Southside Virginia.

We definitely need to balance our budget, but we need to balance it against our needs. How could we seriously propose to cut our income when there continues to be such extensive unmet needs in the Commonwealth?

  • 40yearsinreston

    Right on time, another irrelevant Ken missive

    There will always be “unmet needs”
    Ask RA how useful the Lake White Elephant is

  • BadHombreInShadowood

    “The first example is the state’s refusal to fund education at the level
    it has in the past and that is required by the Constitution.”

    Maybe if there wasn’t an increase in ESL year-over-year this wouldn’t be such an issue.

    • Walter Hadlock

      First of all, amen to the comment about the growing expenditures for ESL. Also. Mr. Plum forgets that people became more and more outraged at the “car tax” because there was not cap on it. As cars became more and more expensive, the tax just kept going up. Greed in not considering a cap was a cause of the rebellion against it, and helped elect a governor who pledged to do something about it. Indeed, Virginia does pride itself on being a “balanced budget state”. What Mr. Plum leaves out is this is mandated in the Commonwealth’s constitution.

  • Mike M

    Ken clearly seeks to represent other parts of the state. It’s not like they don’t benefit hugely net-net from NoVa thanks to our lackluster representation.

    Ken has a much broader sense of needs than the rest of us. And oddly he seems to think that so many of the needs I have that I take care of myself, must be covered for others by me as well.

    Stay outta my pocket. You are a bad rep and a bad allocator of resources. You would bankrupt the state like Illinois if we did all you wanted.

  • Erin Rafferty Warner

    Thank you for pointing out the shortsightedness of tax cuts on the backs of Virginia’s children who were promised a quality education and sick Virginians in need of earlier, preventive care. In the end, we pay for these cuts in e.r. visits and private prisons filled with illiterate adults.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Another Virginian who skipped economics eh? You’re the reason we’re in this mess, hun.

      Instead of education being a right, how about we make it mandatory.

  • Ed Oppenheimer

    Legalize pot and tax it; sane moves like that increase tourism, pay for the schools, and reduce law enforcement budgets. Allowing people to do what they want to do, and taxing their activities, is the future. I hope all our delegates understand this simple fact of economic life. We never find Merchants deliberately selling booze to under aged individuals, but if a substance is illegal then sellers don’t care who buys. It’s time we elect a government that does not put people in cages for doing harm to themselves while thieves, rapists, and murderers run rampant because law enforcement are worried about made-up crimes. It’s time to move the dinosaurs out and elect people that understand what government is and what government should not be.

    • The Constitutionalist

      This is Virginia, a nearly prohibition state. Good luck with your mission.

  • drb

    The increase of students in the state may have been from the influx of illegals given safe haven as well as other State payed free stuff. Having illegals gone would reduce much expenditures in various agencies.
    I know Ken keeps harping on the “billions left on the table” yet is dishonest since it is borrowed money from the Federal system. I thought he is in favor of a balance budget. NOT! just shifting the taxing power so future children will be saddled with the debt.
    The car tax was the most regressive form of tax on the poor yet Ken wants to get it back. Is this the true color of a Liberal? Attack the poor. Always has been, always will be.

  • Election Genius

    As long as the state is sowing the seeds of discontent and as long as citizens are in disagreement over which policies to follow, the fleecing of constituents will continue and will be legitimized by the silent majority who in their “desperate struggle” cling onto the state for guidance and support through the liberal belief system.

    Case in point: Ken, unoppossed, no help from Russia required.

  • 40yearsinreston

    More Ken Plum whining

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