2007-01-10 / Opinions


Delegates set budget priorities for General Assembly session

Hall Hall Virginia has a proud tradition of being fiscally responsible, putting partisanship aside and investing in our future. But in recent years, we have seen that tradition slip away as the General Assembly puts politics, ideology and gridlock before some of our most critical needs.

As we begin this new year, we should renew our resolve to put politics aside and make the right investments in Virginia's future. Governor Tim Kaine took that first step in his budget proposal. The governor's budget makes investments in our top priorities, as well as looks to preserve Virginia's fiscal integrity while cutting taxes for those who need it the most.

The governor has made it a priority to improve education from preschool to graduate school. So should we.

That means recognizing the importance of early childhood development and funding advances in preschool for four-year olds all across our commonwealth. It means ensuring our children have the best teachers available, and providing our world-class institutions of learning the funds they need to prepare the next generation of Virginia leaders.

Again this year, we face a transportation system that urgently needs repair, but last year partisanship and ideology prevented a long-term fix.

This year, Governor Kaine proposed spending half of the budget surplus on transportation; he's right. We must begin to address the problem immediately, but this onetime investment should not take the place of a long-term solution.

Virginia's transportation network was built for the 20th century and does not meet the demands of a state that is changing and growing rapidly. To address the needs of Virginia's future, we must create a long-term strategy to rebuild our transportation infrastructure.

The governor's budget also invests in making health care more affordable and accessible by tackling our nursing shortage, expanding access to Medicaid and providing more health coverage to children.

And, in addition to making investments in our schools, our roads and our health care system, Governor Kaine has assured that the state's "rainy day" fund is at 426-9311 constitutional maximum so we preserve Virginia's AAA bond rating.

I am especially pleased that the governor proposed tax relief for those who work hard and play by the rules. His plan would take over 350,000 lowincome Virginians off the tax rolls by increasing the threshold for paying state income taxes. When we couple this tax relief proposal with an increase in the minimum wage, hard-working Virginia families will see much needed relief.

This year, we have an opportunity to finally put partisanship aside, make critical investments in our commonwealth's future, preserve our fiscal integrity and provide tax relief to those who help drive Virginia's economy.

Governor Kaine's budget does just that. It makes government more efficient, invests wisely in the future and saves for a rainy day.

As elected officials, we can fulfill our obligation to leave this commonwealth a better place for our children by putting politics aside and investing in what's right for Virginia's future.

Let that be our New Year's resolution.

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