Lawmakers in Richmond are dodging the hard choices and forcing localities to pick up the slack. Many of the cuts and changes to state programs proposed in current budgets amount to little more than unfunded mandates on the cities and counties around the state.
Practices like changing the funding formula for schools to eliminate state support for fixed costs like bus maintenance, classroom desks, or heating and cooling costs simply pass down the budget shortfall to local governments that have far fewer tools than the state to address the problem.
"The bottom line is that the state government and the local governments should be partners," said Staunton Vice Mayor Dave Metz. "Instead the state's cuts just make it harder and harder to govern at the local level."
This legislative session legislators were given the option to prevent some or all of these unfunded local mandates by closing costly tax loopholes and using that revenue to avoid passing these burdens on to localities. Yet in almost every instance our elected leaders chose to preserve, widen, or even create new costly and inefficient tax loopholes rather than support Virginia localities.
Virginia is better than this and we can still make better choices. With debate over the budget now likely to continue beyond March 10, we call on our legislators to re-focus on the needs of Virginians and restore their partnership with localities.
Virginia Organizing is part of Better Choices for Virginia-a broad alliance of business leaders, community organizations, retirees, parents, educators, health care providers, people of faith, and nonprofit organizations who want to make sure our state is a great place to live, raise a family, and run a business. We've come together for the common good. We want to make sure Virginia invests what it takes to create jobs and preserve a prosperous future: schools, health care, public safety and other building blocks of a strong economy.
"10 Ways in 10 Days" is an educational campaign to highlight the impact of the budget choices we've made in Virginia, and how we can better address the current challenges we face to ensure future prosperity.