Lawmakers warn of more budget cuts

Published 9:44 am Friday, January 8, 2010

FRANKLIN—State lawmakers spoke with a crowded room of area constituents Wednesday morning about budget cuts Virginia is facing this year, as well as legislation for the upcoming General Assembly session.

Before heading to Richmond next week, State Sen. Frederick M. Quayle, R-Suffolk, and Delegates William K. Barlow, D-Smithfield, and Roslyn Tyler, D-Surry, were on hand at the annual Eggs and Issues breakfast to give their impressions and answer questions. Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, was out of town and sent a representative in her place.

The lawmakers said their foremost concern is the budget and cuts that will have to be made to it.

“We are facing some very difficult times in Richmond,” Quayle told the packed room. “We have cut the budget by six billion in the last couple of years. We go to Richmond next week with the prospect of having to cut another four billion. I’m not sure we’re going to get through this session without cuts in public education.”

The General Assembly prepares the state budget every two years in even-numbered years.

Tyler said Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell campaigned on a “no new taxes” platform, which legislators would work to accomplish.

“We have to try and maintain funding for core programs — education, health, public safety and transportation” Tyler stressed. “We will try to prevent as many unfunded mandates that come down to local governments as we can. We’re going to have to find the money somehow, somewhere.”

Legislators also discussed the outlying landing field issue.

Two lawmakers spoke strongly in favor of anti-OLF legislation.

Quayle said he plans to introduce a measure in the senate that would require the General Assembly to approve any OLF site in the state.

“It is a starting point,” he said. “It will slow the process down and allow us a little more input into it.”

Barlow said he and Tyler would introduce similar legislation in the House.

Another sticky issue up for discussion was Kaine’s budget suggestion to combine commissioner of revenue and treasurer positions into one director of finance post.

“I’m going to introduce a budget amendment to delete that,” Quayle said. “I don’t know anyone who is in favor of it.”

Lawmakers didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the impending closure of International Paper’s Franklin mill.

“We’ve just got to fight our way through this thing,” Barlow said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult, but there will be other economic opportunities. The state is working hard to improve the situation and all of us are locally as well.”

The lawmakers said in addition to budget talks, constituents could look forward to several other issues up for debate, including:

Health care


Electing a new circuit court judge to replace retiring Westbrook J.. Parker

The expansions of U.S. 58 and 460

Increasing the gas and state sales tax

Mandatory seatbelts

Scenic river designations

The session lasts from Wednesday to March 13.