Bill Bolling Comments on the State Budget, Calls on Kaine to Support Elimination of the Death Tax

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Below is a press release from Lt. Governor Bill Bolling on the new state budget. His comments (not to mention his work on behalf of Virginia's taxpayers) have already won him praise from Bacon's Rebellion, where they said: "Rarely have I seen a public official hit so many of the right notes regarding transportation in such a short space." Check it out:

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The Bolling Report: June 21, 2006
GENERAL ASSEMBLY FINISHES WORK ON NEW STATE BUDGET

After 161 days of trying, the Senate and House of Delegates have given final approval to a new state budget for the 2006/2008 biennium. The budget will now be communicated to Governor Kaine for his consideration. The General Assembly will return to Richmond on June 28th to consider the Governor’s budget amendments.

This year’s budget impasse was precipitated by a debate over whether or not it was necessary to raise taxes to increase funding for highway construction projects in Virginia. For several months the Governor and Senate insisted on higher transportation taxes, but the House of Delegates steadfastly refused to consider any tax increases.

The primary obstacle to a budget agreement was removed on May 23rd when the Senate passed a budget that eliminated any reference to transportation tax increases. Since then budget negotiators have been working to resolve other differences in the budgets that had been adopted by the respective bodies of the General Assembly.

The budget adopted by the General Assembly will fully fund the core responsibilities of state government. For example, the budget will:

*Provide an additional $1.56B for direct aid to localities for public education. It also includes more than $240M in additional funding for Virginia’s colleges and universities

*Provide over $90M to open four new correctional facilities, $10M to fill 70 State Trooper vacancies, and significant additional funding to enhance Virginia’s sex offender registry and implement a more aggressive post discharge monitoring program of violent sexual offenders

*Provide $222M to clean up Virginia’s waterways - $200M to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and another $22M to meet water quality challenges in the Southern Rivers Watershed.

*Provide a 4% salary increase in 2007 for state employees, state supported local employees and public school teachers

The budget also makes some important investments in transportation. While there was no agreement on a long term transportation plan, budget negotiators did agree to set aside $336M in surplus money to provide a one time shot in the arm for critical transportation projects.

In addition, the budget adopted by the Senate and House of Delegates will fully eliminate the death tax in Virginia effective July 1, 2007. The death tax is a very unfair tax that should have been eliminated long ago. I call on Governor Kaine to join me in pledging his support to this important initiative. Virginia’s families, family farmers and small business owners will be watching to see if the Governor will stand on their side in this important debate

All in all, the budget adopted by the General Assembly is a sound one. It relies on economic growth to fund the core responsibilities of state government, targets investments to critical service areas, eliminates the death tax and does not include higher taxes.

Much has been written about the disagreements that prevented the General Assembly from reaching a budget agreement prior to now. While we all wish that this process would have been resolved much earlier than it was, in the final analysis the General Assembly did its job and produced a budget that will help build a better Virginia.

Obviously, the debate over additional funding for transportation is not over. It is possible that the General Assembly will have to return to Richmond later this year to continue its discussion over the adoption of a long term transportation plan. If not, this issue will be with us again in 2007.

While I fully support efforts to make a significant ongoing investment in transportation, I remained convinced that we can do this without raising taxes. With Virginia’s economy continuing to grow at a very rapid rate, we can increase funding for transportation without raising taxes if we are prepared to direct our resources to our highest priorities.

There may be other acceptable ways to provide additional funding for critical transportation projects, such as the use of tolls to help pay for projects that are constructed through the Public Private Transportation Act. However, I do not see any appetite at the legislative level for higher taxes.

As the debate over building a transportation system for the 21st century continues, we must also remember two other important areas – improving efficiency within the Virginia Department of Transportation and doing a better job linking land use planning and transportation planning at the local level.

In summary, I congratulate the members of the General Assembly for reaching a budget agreement that funds the core responsibilities of state government without raising taxes, and for including the elimination of the death tax in this agreement. I have enjoyed working with them throughout this process, and I look forward to working with them in the future.

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