Following Your Directions at the Assembly
Kenneth R. Ken Plum
Each house of the General Assembly has passed its version of the budget, and the two budgets are farther apart than I have ever seen them be. The Senate budget appropriates more than $3 billion above the Governors budget for education, transportation and human services. The House appropriated a half-billion dollars less than the lean budget the Governor proposed. I voted against the House budget because of its inadequate funding of core services of government. A conference committee must work to resolve the differences.
Thanks to all who responded to my voter survey earlier this year. Responses to all questions can be reviewed on my website, www.kenplum.com. Click on Recent Communications. Following is what people told me about their positions on major issues.
The Governors plan for tax reform received strong support. Reduction of the sales tax on groceries from 4 to 2.5 percent was supported by 85 percent of respondents. Increasing the standard deduction on income tax was supported by 90 percent of respondents.
Clearly, there is a recognition that the Commonwealth needs additional revenue. A sales tax increase from 4.5 to 5.5 percent was supported by 58 percent of respondents, and the creation of a bracket of 6.25 percent for incomes over $100,000 was supported by 72 percent of respondents. Most popular were the proposals to raise the cigarette tax by 22.5 cents (supported by 92 percent) and closing tax loopholes for corporations (supported by 94 percent).
There is a strong recognition of the need for additional support for K-12 education with 83 percent of those responding supporting increased funding of at least $500 million. At the same time, 71 percent oppose providing vouchers or tuition tax credits for private schools. Support for increased funding for colleges and universities was favored by 85 percent.
Dulles Rail from the Orange Line into Loudoun County is supported by 88 percent. The use of buses instead of rail is opposed by 80 percent. And the use of money proposed for rail to be used instead for building roads was opposed by 90 percent of respondents.
On other issues, 67 percent favor the governor being able to succeed himself/herself. A state constitutional amendment to prevent Transportation Trust Funds from being used for other purposes is supported by 90 percent of respondents. Three-fourths of respondents favor a prohibition on the use of cellular phones while driving.
Issues on which there is less than a clear consensus include using tolls to build rail (44 percent support), restricting the number of out of state students in public colleges (48 percent support), and legalizing gay and lesbian marriages (51 percent support).
I would be especially pleased to hear from readers on the difficult decisions to be made to resolve the budget differences. Write to me at email@example.com.