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Progress of the Legislative Session
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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Progress of the Legislative Session
February 15, 2011


Dear Friend, 
I wanted to take the opportunity to write to you to update you on the progress of the legislative session in Richmond this year.  It has been a busy and productive session with important progress for Northern Virginia.     

Transportation Issues:   

Governor's Transportation Plan - For the first time in over twenty years, we are succeeding with a major transportation bill that will provide over $4 billion in much needed transportation infrastructure funding over the next three years without raising taxes.  Our bipartisan vote of 65-33 on the bill on February 4, combines the broad support of over 50 major business and transportation groups, including the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.  This multi-faceted transportation package, which is the single largest infusion of funding in decades, will begin the process of much needed congestion relief in Northern Virginia and fund over 900 projects across the Commonwealth and put thousands of Virginians to work.  For every $100 million spent on highway construction, 3000 jobs are estimated to be created or supported.

Georgetown Pike and Route 7 Widening- One of the first issues I worked on as your delegate was opposing the proposal to create a two lane left turn from Route 7 onto Georgetown Pike.  After spending months on this issue, working with Secretary of Transportation, Sean Connaughton, Congressman Wolf, our local officials, and most importantly, the Great Falls Citizens Association Transportation Committee, VDOT is now working with the community on a single lane proposal.  Secretary Connaughton also recently confirmed that the funds for project work on widening Route 7 are going to be provided in the Governor's Transportation Plan. 

Revenue Sharing The transportation plan also incorporated my bill, H.B. 2203, which removes the priority structure for allocation of transportation revenue-sharing funds to localities.  The existing priority system resulted in Fairfax County getting no revenue sharing funds.  Now, we will be eligible again on an equal footing with other localities to receive some of the $50 million revenue sharing funds included in the transportation package.

 

Transparency Issue: 

Government Transparency Advisory Council - I have worked with the Governor's office and my colleagues to provide budget transparency and create a Government Transparency Advisory Council.  The Governor's office will be putting together a council to promote budgetary transparency.  Simply placing government data online is not sufficient; it must be searchable and usable.  Agencies should provide required information online in an accessible and timely manner and provide government financial statements and budgets with a full statement of debts, liabilities, and guarantees. 

Education Issues: 

Higher Education Act - I co-patroned this bill and I voted with my colleagues in the House of Delegates to pass the Higher Education Act of 2011. This bill will enable our institutions to meet the goal of issuing an additional 100,000 degrees over the next 15 years, making Virginia one of the most highly educated states in the nation, providing our state with a great workforce that will attract top jobs. Based on this legislation, Virginia's major colleges and universities will be providing more in-state slots for our students.  The legislation also places a greater emphasis on the highly demanded science, technology, engineering and math subjects through the formation of a public-private partnership that will engage the business and professional community in leveraging best practices for K-12 and higher education. 

All Day Kindergarten - I introduced a budget amendment to help complete the implementation of all day kindergarten in our schools. My amendment allows a school district to shift money, for one year, from pre-school funds to the effort of completing all-day kindergarten. This amendment was adopted unanimously in the House Budget, which passed on Thursday, February 10, by a vote of 69-28.  As you may know, Fairfax County still has not implemented all day kindergarten in 37 of its 139 elementary schools.  As a result, our kids are not treated equally and we are essentially paying a kindergarten tax. 

Bonus for Teachers - I also introduced a bill that would provide a 3% bonus to our teachers by giving them incentives to find savings in the existing budget to be put towards this bonus.  Last year state employees were able to find savings in their respective budgets that allowed for them to receive a 3% bonus and this is designed to reward teachers in the same way.  My bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee and an option to provide a 2% bonus for teachers has been included in the House Budget, which was passed on February 10.

Taxes:

Telework Tax Credit - I am the patron of a Governor's bill to create a telework tax credit.  Employers would be eligible for a credit of up to $1,200 per teleworking employee, depending on the number of days per month an employee will telework. The total credit amount any one employer may take for 2012 and 2013 is $50,000.  This bill was passed by a bipartisan vote of 89-10; and a similar bill was passed unanimously in the Senate.  I first started working on telework issues in Congressman Wolf's office almost 20 years ago.  Telework is both a family friendly workplace solution that helps Moms and Dads juggle their work and family obligations and it also helps with transportation headaches to enable people to use modern technology to work from home and save gas, time and energy.  I am happy to have the support of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Virginia Small Business Partnership on this important issue.

Anti-VAT Tax Resolution - HJR 642, my resolution to urge the Virginia delegation of Congress to oppose any legislation that would levy a value-added tax (VAT) passed by a strong bipartisan vote of 86-11.  A VAT tax is levied when an individual buys a good or service for consumption and the tax manifests as a higher purchase price.  In Europe the VAT tax ranges from 5-20% or more. A VAT tax levied on top of all the income, payroll and other taxes we already pay would mean less money for hard working taxpayers to house, clothe, feed and educate themselves and their children.  In a fragile economy, this would be another job killing tax.  The Virginia House of Delegates is now strongly on record with Congress saying you can't tax your way to prosperity and we hope the Senate will express the same sentiment. 

The Arts:
Arts Caucus 
- On Arts Advocacy Day, January 27, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and I held the inaugural meeting of the House of Delegates Arts Caucus.  We had a great turnout of arts advocates from around the state and a strong Northern Virginia representation.   The mission of the caucus is to promote and work with our local arts community in our respective districts to highlight and support their programs and performances and promote their efforts with our business community and the donor community.  The arts have always been a valued part of my life and our community is blessed with a thriving arts community that is vital to enhancing the economic vitality of our entire region. We look forward to promoting our creative talent throughout our community.

Wolf Trap Foundation for the Arts
- I introduced HJR 655, a resolution commending Wolf Trap on the occasion of their 40th anniversary.  On January 31 we held a special Center Aisle presentation in the House of Delegates to commend Wolf Trap and present the resolution to Karen Pittleman, Director of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, and Terre Jones, President and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. 

Stay In Touch 

Finally, I would like to invite you to fill out the 2011 Legislative Survey, on my website,  www.delegatecomstock.com.  I really appreciate hearing from you on the issues we are focusing on this year.    As always, my staff and I are here to serve you and we welcome your input and concerns regarding legislation pending before the House.  You can also contact my office at 804-698-1034 orDelBComstock@house.virginia.gov. 

I would also like to invite you to visit me in Richmond.  We would be happy to arrange for a tour of the Capitol building and I always like to meet with constituents in my office.  You can find me in room 407 of the General Assembly Building. 

Sincerely,

Signature
Barbara Comstock

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