Column: A New Day in Richmond and Many Challenges

As the Virginia General Assembly begins its 2022 session, my 13th, I look forward to working with Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the new House of Delegates leadership and other legislators to reach a consensus on the best direction for our state.

While I did not support them, I attended Governor Youngkin’s inauguration and  swearing in, along with the swearing in of Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares.


Budgets Reflect Priorities

No matter what happens with other bills, one thing we are required to accomplish this session is to pass a budget. Thanks to federal pandemic funds, Virginia has significant excess revenues in our two-year budget cycle that ends on June 30, 2022. A little over half of those revenues will be appropriated to the “Rainy Day Fund” and to mandatory water quality improvement. 

In the last session, we also reserved about $1.5 billion of $4.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act in case we had a pandemic resurgence.  We are limited to spending these funds on five categories of expenditures including water and sewer infrastructure and maintenance of outdoor assets. I am proposing to spend some of these funds to (1) eliminate our state parks’ $225 million maintenance backlog, (2) install a public water line at Pohick Bay Regional Park to replace well service and water and sewer infrastructure, and (3) to construct permanent, outdoor restrooms at all Fairfax County public high schools. 

The new two-year budget also projects significant new revenues. The Governor is proposing a series of ill-advised tax cuts. First, he proposes to cut our current two percent grocery tax that is dedicated solely to education and would cost Fairfax County Public Schools about $80 million per year.  The Governor also reiterated his call to suspend the $0.08 per gallon gas tax increase enacted in 2021. His proposal would save the average Virginia driver about $4 a month, but interrupt dozens of transportation projects currently planned. 

My Bills

I am carrying around 27 bills. One creates a joint study to review the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic across all levels of government so we can learn from our mistakes and improve our system going forward. I am also carrying legislation to study multi-family housing regulation to ensure that Virginia’s inspection systems and condo association policies are sufficiently strong to avoid the types of collapse we saw in Florida or partial collapse that occurred at River Towers near Belleview in Fairfax County in 2016. 

The Biden Administration recently signed an agreement at the Edinburgh, Scotland, global summit to reduce methane emissions in the U.S. by 75 percent. Methane is 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping energy. I have a bill to incentivize Virginia’s natural gas companies to capture loose methane from landfills or waste composting operations and sell it to consumers to remove it from the atmosphere and curtail these greenhouse gasses that are warming the planet. 

Cycling and pedestrian deaths have been increasing across the country, Virginia and our local community. At one point in 2020, three pedestrians were killed in Fairfax County one day. One major cause of these problems is that the infrastructure in our part of Northern Virginia was designed for vehicles and not pedestrians. While the legislature has provided significant new funding for transportation infrastructure, the focus has traditionally largely been for vehicle projects, with pedestrian or cycling improvements considered secondarily. I have introduced a bill to require a fixed percentage of funds to be devoted to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure going forward. 

Virginia’s Supreme Court significantly revised state legislative districts including the district I currently represent. I will discuss this in a future column.

If you have any feedback, please contact me at scott@scottsurovell.org and follow my work on Facebook and Twitter.   It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

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