Legislative Forum at YRFV Convention

Cristen Vehorn of the Richmond Area YRS led a forum on the past legislative session. A recap is below. 

What was the big issue (other than the budget)?

McDougle: All sessions are different and usually have an issue (transportation, eminent domain) but the budget overshadowed everything. Part of that had to do with House limits on bill submissions. One major issue that McDougle cited a victory on was transparency. He said that the smoking ban was overplayed in the media. 

Cole: The Smoking Ban certainly overtook the last few weeks. Cole reiterated his personal belief that the government should not control the use of a legal product on someone’s private property (to much applause). Cole noted a marked change in the tenor of the Senate’s proposals, even though the old Republican leadership tended to be “big government” Republicans. Cole noted that the Republicans have to distinguish themselves as the true party of limited government, and suggested that the current status of Washington as totally controlled by the Dems will probably make Virginian’s think twice about Democratic candidates in November. Cole also noted his efforts to change VDOT spending practices (a battle that my delegate, Todd Gilbert, is also fighting). Cole noted that the caucus’s transportation died a quick death in the Senate, with nary a word from the press. 

On the Budget:

Cole: He voted for the budget because it moved in the right direction of decreasing spending. He overviewed the budget process (every two years, budgets are submitted; The House rejects the Senate’s and vice versa, and the budget is hashed out; generally this is an off year, but tweaks had to made due to Wagner’s faulty projections). Cole noted that Kaine is a very political creature and wanted to put the GOP in a tight bind. He supported the budget because it contained language that allows the next governor to put caps on school support personnel and did not eliminate the sales tax deduction for businesses. He said he felt obligated to vote for it after that to maintain future negotiating positions. He also noted that the stimulus was the major reason that the budget passed on time. The stimulus primarily benefitted law enforcement and education. However, he noted that they did not accept the unemployment funds. 

McDougle: He did not vote for the budget, and went over the history of Kaine’s projection. Kaine started out with a projection of 15% growth in income. McDougle was part of those who voted against the budget in 2008 as well, with that group projecting a $2 billion shortfall that turned into a $4 billion shortfall. McDougle noted that while the stimulus funds did save some jobs, they will ultimately be doing little to actually stimulate the economy. Only $500 million of the stimulus money will exist next year. In 2011, there will be $4 billion in holes. The bottom line: There needs to be major structural changes. 

There was one question on education and about the importance of it in our society. 

Cole: The question is are we getting our money’s worth for our education dollars? He noted that it makes up about 50% of the state budget and in most localities up to 70% of local budgets. He suggested that perhaps we are not getting a good return on investment, pointing to how school administrators are rewarded far more handsomely than

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