Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Delegate-Elect Keam quoted in Fairfax County Times

In another preview of the 2010 legislative session, Delegate-Elect Keam discusses his priorities:

Lawmakers brace for budget woes as work begins next Wednesday

Leaders must cut about $4 billion or raise taxes to make up for lost revenue

Tuesday January 5, 2010

by Kali Schumitz | Staff Writer

As the Virginia General Assembly heads back to work next week, legislators will be facing a session dominated by money -- namely, the state's lack of it.

"I think the budget is clearly going to dominate everything, and every decision we make will be influenced by the budgetary considerations," said Del. Thomas Davis Rust (D-Dist. 86) of Herndon.

State leaders must cut about $4 billion from state programs and funding for localities or raise taxes to make up for revenue lost to the recession, according to the latest estimates by outgoing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's (D) staff. Kaine proposed $2.3 billion in cuts, along with some other measures that would effectively result in tax increases, to close the gap.

Tax hikes are not likely to be a part of Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell's revised budget proposals, as he promised throughout his campaign last year that he would not raise taxes.

"The Senate will want to raise taxes, the House won't want to and we're going to be in a big lockdown, drag out," Del. David B. Albo (R-Dist. 42) of South Fairfax County said.

In addition to the anticipated battles over the state budget, many new legislative initiatives are aimed at either saving the state money or bringing new revenues here.

Albo has proposed using consumer and legal database searches to cut back on Medicaid fraud in the state. As attorney general, McDonnell successfully prosecuted Medicaid cases totaling about $650 million, so the potential savings are substantial, Albo said.

He is also proposing a pilot program for people who violate the terms of their parole, modeled on programs that have successfully reduced recidivism in other states. The program would try to reduce the number of people who return to prison to serve out a suspended sentence.

Del.-elect James M. LeMunyon (R-Dist. 67), one of five freshmen delegates from Fairfax County this session, also has some cost-saving proposals, including one bill that would reduce the number of reports that the Department of Education is required to produce, reducing burdens on the state agency as well as local school districts.

Del.-elect Mark L. Keam (D-Dist. 35), meanwhile, is focusing his efforts on job creation. He is proposing tax credits and other incentives for businesses that create jobs in Virginia related to renewable energy, as well as some tax relief for small businesses.

While he says he is unsure how much he will accomplish legislatively as a freshman delegate, Keam said he will also be working his personal and business connections to continue to spread the word that Virginia is "open for business."

"I want to spend some time really advocating for Virginia as a place to do business," he said.

Rust is also incorporating a job creation theme into a transportation bill he is working on for the upcoming session. With low interest rates and increased competition for construction jobs, "the time is right" to invest in transportation, Rust said.

"The construction industry in Virginia has been devastated by the lack of transportation funding," Rust said. "We'll get very competitive pricing for the projects."

Solving Northern Virginia's transportation problems will be hard if key state leaders maintain their opposition to new revenue sources, Rust said, but he plans to focus his legislative efforts on transportation solutions.

Other legislators are attempting smaller steps on transportation. LeMunyon plans to introduce a bill that would force the Virginia Department of Transportation to rate projects numerically based on the amount of congestion relief provided for the price, "to focus our transportation dollars on projects that get us the biggest bang for our buck."

Albo has called for the Commonwealth Transportation Board to draw a line on the map for a Washington, D.C., bypass that would shift travelers passing through on the Interstate 95 corridor away from widely used commuter routes. Planning for such a road would allow a private company to potentially develop a bypass as a toll road, he said.

Besides working on their own initiatives, the county's delegates said they expect to play a highly defensive role this session, trying to keep other legislators from balancing the state budget on the backs of ostensibly wealthy Northern Virginians.

"We want to make sure Fairfax County gets every penny we deserve," Keam said.

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