Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Sun Gazette Previews 2011 General Assembly 

Vienna-Area Legislators: 2011 Session All Comes Down to Money

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer

(Created: Monday, November 8, 2010 6:17 AM EST)

Money will be the key concern when the General Assembly meets next year, two state legislators told Vienna Town Council members during a Nov. 1 legislative briefing.

"The driving force will be dollars," said Del. Mark Keam (D-35th). "If you can't pay for it, it ain't going to happen."

Council members went over the town's legislative agenda with Keam and state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th) to make their positions clear and get the legislators' input.

The council, as it does every year, will press the General Assembly for more road-maintenance dollars to offset the costs caused by heavy local traffic. Council members would like the funding formula to be based on vehicle miles traveled, not the total number of lane miles.

Petersen told the council he will sponsor a bill again next year to allot road moneys equally between Virginia's 11 U.S. House of Representatives districts. This method likely would bring more road funds to highly populated Northern Virginia, which has smaller congressional districts than rural areas downstate.

Another of the town's legislative priorities is to beat back efforts to reduce or eliminate revenues localities may collect from a business, professional and occupational license (BPOL) tax.

Vienna officials, like those in many Northern Virginia localities, depend largely on real estate taxes to finance their budget, and see BPOL revenues as a way of removing some of the burden from homeowners.

BPOL revenues account for about 10.5 percent of Vienna's annual budget, and eliminating that tax would force town officials to jack up the real estate rate by 25 percent, said Town Manager John Schoeberlein.

Petersen told council members it was unlikely the General Assembly would eliminate the BPOL tax, saying a bill like that would not make it past the Senate Finance Committee.

"Everybody hates BPOL, but what are you going to do without it?" he asked.

The Town Council's legislative agenda also asks state officials to let localities keep zoning control if Virginia leaders decide to privatize the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores.

That initiative, a highly touted promise during Gov. McDonnell's election campaign, was intended to raise $500 million for transportation projects. But the proposal has spurred resistance from some legislators, who fear long-term losses in tax revenues would more than offset the windfall from selling the stores.

Petersen predicted the ABC-store privatization proposal would fail in the state Senate next year.

The General Assembly will convene on Jan. 12. Town Council members will travel to Richmond on Feb. 3 for their annual visit to the legislature.

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