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Board Members Offer Legislative Priorities, Express Funding Concerns

by Katie Pyzyk November 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm 4,622 84 Comments

On Saturday (November 17), the County Board took time at its meeting to discuss Arlington’s legislative priorities for the 2013 General Assembly session. During that discussion it quickly became clear the Board members fear significant cuts in the amount of funding the county receives from the state.

Board members are preparing to take a hit, although it’s unclear how serious the situation will be until legislators at the federal and state levels figure out their own financial issues.

In its legislative priorities package, the Board is requesting the restoration of state funds for Arlington, which have been cut in recent years to balance the state’s budget. A county staff report indicates that between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2013, the state cut $7.2 million in funding to Arlington.

The Board is also making a big push for more state funding for transportation, and requested around $1 billion annually for maintenance and continued operations on roads and the transit infrastructure. Board member Jay Fisette said state funding for transportation over the next three years is “disastrous.”

“We in Arlington and every local government in Virginia, we keep saying it, it sounds like we’re beating a dead horse, but the reality is that is the context in which we do all this work. That’s the context in which the manager has to balance a budget,” Fisette said. “Support from the state level has decreased substantially.”

Board member Libby Garvey shared Fisette’s concern.

“One of the things that I keep hearing, and it’s starting to sink in more and more, I think we all understand the fact that the federal government cuts things to the states, states cut things and it all falls down to the localities to have to do more and more,” she said. “As it gets tighter and tighter and we’re going to be raising taxes and cutting services, which it looks like we’re going to have to do, there’s going to be a lot of push-back from the public.”

County Manager Barbara Donnellan confirmed that the amount of funding coming into Arlington has slipped.

“The degradation [of funding] over the years has been significant,” Donnellan said. “The good news is we don’t have a ton of money from the state and the feds. The bad news is even what you have is still a significant hit if it goes away.”

A county press release offered the following highlights of the legislative priorities package:

  • Fully restore state aid to localities funding – Between FY 2008 and FY 2013, the state cut $7.2 million in funding to critical services in the County to help balance the state’s budget. Cuts in state aid have reduced funding to the Public Library, the Courts, the police department, the Dept. of Human Services, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and other services.
  • Increase transportation funding with new, permanent and reliable sources — There is a critical need for increased funding for transit capital, operations and maintenance. Arlington joins jurisdictions along the I-95 and I-64 corridors in supporting a substantial increase in dedicated funding for roads and transit from new, sustainable sources. Arlington will advocate for at least $1 billion annually to support maintenance and continued operations of Virginia’s existing road and transit infrastructure.
  • Require on-line travel companies to collect and remit all state sales and local transient occupancy taxes — Currently on-line travel companies, such as Expedia, Orbitz or Hotel.com, buy rooms from hotels, then resell them at a higher rate. They are remitting taxes to the state and localities at the wholesale rate they have paid the hotels,not the retail rate that they sold on-line. Arlington County, and other localities, are urging the General Assembly to adopt language that would require these on-line travel companies to pay the full amount of sales and use taxes to the state and local governments and Transient Occupancy Taxes to the localities.
  • Ensure that the state provide adequate resources to support individuals leaving Virginia Training Centers under the Justice Dept. settlement — Arlington expects to need to provide for 23 individuals with severe mental and physical disabilities who will be discharged from the Northern Virginia Training Center External link by June 30, 2015.
  • Housing – Support additional funds for the state Housing Trust Fund that was established in the 2012 budget with one-time money.
  • Immigration – Oppose any state mandates to localities requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals.

The board will vote on the final version of its legislative package at its December 8 meeting, after hearing from the public. Arlington residents are invited to read the details of the proposed legislative priorities package online and offer feedback until Friday, November 30.

The General Assembly session begins on January 9, 2013, and runs until February 23, 2013.

  • Captain_Obvious

    I predict this article breaks the record (whatever it is) for most comments on this site.

    • Josh S

      Well, we just had well over 200 on essentially the same topic. People may be commented out.

      But I’ll run through and add a few “it’s more complicated than thats” so as to do my part…..

  • Mickey

    Interesting that they aren’t talking about cutting only about we want MORE! We just bought a building for the homeless and social services among other things, have plans for the trolly that no one wants, and then scream that we don’t have enough money for roads! How about widening I66 Arlington?

    • JohnB

      I want the street car.

      • FrenchyB

        Me too.

      • George Jetson

        I want the raised mono-rail….

    • arlgirl

      You have hit the nail on the head.

    • AMK

      I would disagree with the need for a building for the homeless and social services etc. HOwever, where I think the County Board did a real disservice is moving forward with ridiculously lavish plans for an acquatics center. I bet most folks don’t even know that the parks and rec bond funding they just approved included ALOT of money for this center. Where are the Board’s priorities?? And I agree, how can they complain about federal and state cuts when they’re unwilling to prioritize funding. And I’m a Democrat.

      • Josh S

        There is no mystery about where the Board’s priorities are. They were obvious before the election, they are obvious now. Yet everyone got re-elected. I think we are a far cry from any sort of crisis in Arlington that might justify throwing the bums out.

      • grammar

        I’m pretty sure you lose all credibility when you think “ALOT” is one word…. *sigh*

    • Glebe Roader

      With all respect, I am for the trolley and I am against widening I-66. Just because YOU don’t want things, doesn’t mean others share your priorities.

      • drax

        It means you don’t understand what you’re voting for, Glebe Roader. Or you just vote for whoever has a D next to his name. Don’t you read the comments here?

        • Captain_Obvious

          Some people do vote for the “D” only, just as some people only vote for the “R” only. You know that, right ?

          • drax

            Sure. But that’s not the same thing as saying ALL those who vote for Ds only vote for Ds because of the D, while those who vote for Rs are independent-minded intelligent thoughtful citizens.

            Or anyone who voted for the pool bond didn’t know what they were voting for, but those who voted against it understand it in exquisite detail.

          • SomeGuy

            drax, I challenge you to find comments saying that all “who voted for the pool bond didn’t know what they were voting for” and/or that all “who voted against it understand it in exquisite detail.”

            I think the points you argue incessantly are based on your belief that one’s highlighting a data point or hypothesis is the same as his making an adamant and absolute statement of law. And then you rally around arguing the lack of absoluteness, which you think helps you win. But it really just clouds what could be an otherwise rational discussion.

            We call that a strawman.

          • drax

            I didn’t say any comments said that.

            If you think nobody has ever said that here, great!

            We can wait until the next time someone posts something like that, and decide then.

          • SomeGuy

            drax, I think nobody has ever said that here.

            However, I’ve read where people hypothesized that fewer than 100% of voters understood which specific projects would be funded by the bond referendum, and perhaps even a significant amount of them didn’t. Your response to a hypothesis of that nature yesterday was to call it “completely worthless.”

          • drax

            Oh, cut it out, SomeGuy. You’ve seen the comments. You know at least some of them quite clearly said that everybody who voted for X is an idiot who didn’t understand it.

        • Glebe Roader

          No, I *do* understand what I’m voting for. I also understand that, unfortunately, I may not be able to pick-and-choose from specific projects in a large bond issue. For instance, I voted against the parks bond because a large percentage of it would be to fund the pool. However, I wish the pool bond had been separated from the rest of the parks bond so I could have voted against one and for the other.

    • esmith69

      I want the streetcar as well.

    • CW

      I want the streetcar because it will bring added density (and thus tax revenue) to an underutilized portion of the County, as opposed to a widening of 66, which will incentivize people to live far away and spend none of their money in Arlington. Funny how that works, it’s almost like the County Board has put at least a little thought into these things.

      • SomeGuy

        I want good reliable public transit on the Pike. For me, that doesn’t need to be a $300 million streetcar.

        • CW

          Please do note that, as budgeted, about 50% of the project funding will come from sources outside of Arlington and Fairfax Counties. Still no bargain, but I feel it unfair that people throw around the $300M number with the implication that Arlington will be paying 100% of it.

          I think the value in the streetcar is permanence. While it sounds silly to say that what appears to be a psychological distinction (permanent streetcars versus impermanent buses) is worth that cost, it really is when you’re talking about whether or not developers are willing to bet big on an area.

          That said, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if a Metro connection to the Blue line were on the table for 10X as much, I’d be all for it too. I don’t think the streetcar integrates as well into the region’s overall transit plan.

          • SomeGuy

            I understand the logic behind your permanence argument. I don’t support it at this price tag, but I respect that you wrote a thoughtful comment without resorting to the mean-spirited barbs that usually accompany this topic.

            I absolutely agree that South Arlington could use better transit options, and I think that demand could be both met and induced by a “world class” bus service. And reportedly implemented at about the same cost as the proposed “world class” aquatics center.

          • Bystander

            That other 50% is supposed to come from the state and the federal government, neither of which is guaranteed and both of which seem increasingly unlikely, as the board members themselves say in the article. The only sure thing in ArlCo is the demand for more amenities and the taxes and debts that pay for them.

      • KalashniKEV

        Trolley folly will kill the traficability of Columbia Pike. Can you imagine being stuck behind that thing???

        • drax

          Because nobody gets stuck behind buses or other vehicles now.

          • ARL-VA

            Or behind cars.

          • Captain_Obvious

            or behind cyclists.

          • SomeGuy

            Or behind pedestrians.

        • Josh S

          At least it won’t be making left turns – the worst part of driving on the Pike.

      • Glebe Roader

        CW, I agree with your logic on this. Metro under Columbia Pike would be even more desirable, but that won’t happen in my lifetime.

    • Malaka

      Why widen i-66? – are you so desperate to get out of Arlington?
      Seriously widening 66 would not help Arlington one bit – just enable thousands more from Fairfax and Loudon to cut through it.

      • darsasx

        Really? So even though I work in Fairfax and commute back to Arlington and sit in traffic every day – that widening I-66 won’t help Arlington one bit? It is backed up in both directions for both morning and evening rush, and it isn’t only because of people in Fairfax and Loudoun using it. I for one would much rather have people use I-66 than currently race down other streets (e.g., Washington Blvd).

        • drax

          So you’d be backed up on 3 lanes instead of 2. Doesn’t fix anything.

  • Tumblebum

    Just like the federal government. There is not a revenue problem, there is a spending problem. No government wants to hear it.

    • Josh S

      In a place like Arlington where tax rates have been relatively stable, you might have a point. But at the federal level, tax rates were slashed under the previous administration with no matching cut (in fact an increase) in spending. So I think the comparison is weak – the feds definitely have a revenue problem as well as a spending problem.

      • Tumblebum

        Actually, you made my point perfectly. Even when there is a revenue cut (unusual circumstance) they can’t envision a spending cut.

        • Josh S

          The problem is agreeing on what to cut. The stuff that is easy to cut doesn’t even come close to balancing the budget. (Whether we are talking federal or Arlington.)

          • typical whiny commenter

            No problem – they should cut whatever I don’t like, and keep whatever I do. I’m the center of the universe after all.

    • ARL-VA

      Actually, on the transportation issue, there is a revenue problem on the national level. A massive one. Gas taxes have not even kept up with inflation. Thus, the amount of money going toward the highway trust fund from gas taxes no longer even comes close to covering highway and transportation costs. People whine and complain about funding bike trails, but they don’t utter a peep when reminded or informed of the tens of billions of dollars in general subsidies for highways and roads.

      • Josh S

        Agreed. It is absurd how cheap gas is in the United States.

    • Ryan Chittum

      There is no fiscal crisis. If there were, the Treasury would not be able to borrow at 1.57 percent, as it did yesterday, near all-time lows and below the current rate of inflation (meaning investors are paying Uncle Sam to borrow their money).

      • Econ 101

        You weren’t an econ major were you….just guessing.

  • BBMS

    “One of the things that I keep hearing, and it’s starting to sink in more and more, I think we all understand the fact that the federal government cuts things to the states, states cut things and it all falls down to the localities to have to do more and more,” she said. “As it gets tighter and tighter and we’re going to be raising taxes and cutting services, which it looks like we’re going to have to do, there’s going to be a lot of push-back from the public.”

    And the triple-witch-bad-news about that statement is Arlington gets boned on the local front end by those federal cuts before the trickle down comes around and kicks them in the butt later.

    • Chuck

      You are so correct, BUT with a $50-60M shortfall, wouldn’t it be prudent and fiscally sound to reduce spending or at least postponing capitol improvements, e.g. the aquatic center and the trolly folly?

  • SomeGuy

    This is one example of why you might not want to over-commit your county to debts in the good times that you’re not confident you can shoulder in the lean times. Or… you just plan to shoulder that debt by raising taxes on local residents in the lean times.

    Disclaimer: I’m not making any judgment about any specific hot-button projects or bond referenda here. Just a general reason why I advocate for cautious spending.

    • KalashniKEV

      There is no fiscal discipline.

  • DCBuff

    Board members fear significant cuts in state funding. So, time to raise taxes! Time to spend more!

  • Mrmeow

    I want the trolley too but only if it is painted neon puke green and has recordings of VRROOM!!!VROOOM! playing as it accellerates!!!

  • Courthouse Diva

    Cut spending — in 2011 Arlington had a office that had a budget of $800,000 for speed humps. They also put 11 lights at the corner of Williamsburg and Harrison to the tune of $90,000 each. This type of spending seems excessive.

    • drax

      Why? Were the humps and lights not needed?

      • ArlingtonWay

        Your Mom said she didn’t need the lights, but she absolutely needed the humps.

        • SomeGuy

          Awesome! I actually laughed out loud. Nicely played.

          • drax

            Hilarious AND dodges the question!

  • MrMeow

    i think the south park guys wrote a song about the arlington board in that mormonism episode. You know, the DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB song.

  • Barney

    And this is the same Board that repeatedly makes it difficult for businesses to locate here in Arlington and which will not go on record as being supportive of the business community (and I’m not talking about the small retail shops that everyone professes to love), all while the District and Tysons eat our lunch, especially when it comes to high growth tech companies. With 50% of our tax base coming from businesses in Arlington, and with big ticket spends on aquatic centers, street cars and the like, we’re about to head toward our very own fiscal cliff – and one that $11 million in cuts doesn’t even begin to solve.

  • Richmond laughs

    Given the disdain for Arlington in Richmond and that VA is a Dillon Rule state, this wish list should go nowhere. After the debacle over suing a state and federal official over the HOT lanes in their personal capacities (requiring them to hire their own attorneys out of their own pocket), followed by several hard slaps from Richmond in response including loosing the right to impose an add on hotel tax to pay for tourism marketing, I would hope that the Arlington County Board is environmentally friendly enough (yes) and smart enough (no) to send their wish list in pdf form, rather than on paper because it will only wind up in the trash can (metal or electronic).

  • Rick

    Oh boy, need to find a spare $50 million or cut $50 million, but we want to make it a legislative priority to not follow rules put forth by the state. I’m glad their priorities are in order.

    • drax

      Um, legislative priorities means they want the state to change the rules, not the county wants to break them.

  • KalashniKEV

    …so long as they continue to choose to do Evil over what is reasonable and within the limits of Good government, the state should let this place feel Pain.

    Sad but true. We deserve it.

    • drax


      • doctor evil

        you have to remember that Kev’s definition of evil is helping someone

    • WeiQiang

      getting less from Richmond than we put in their coffers is not pain enough?

      • SomeGuy

        You must be heartless, WeiQiang. Don’t you realize that income redistribution is social justice and painless?

        KEV just wants Arlington to do its fair share. I would expect most of the commenters here to support that.

        • WeiQiang

          To paraphrase ‘Ghostbusters’, “Yes. It’s true. This man has no heart.”

          I was just trying to find KEV’s rational threshold of pain, futile as that may be when he’s calling random shiz ‘evil’. Since the state is the economic entity by which many services are offered, I’m actually OK with supporting statewide healthcare, education, infrastructure (crumbling bridges, mass transit and smarter commuting), and unemployment initiatives even if NoVA gets less (because it needs less of those things). If it sustains improvements to the quality of life overall, it can benefit NoVA. While I can criticize ArlCo gov’t on overreaching and efficiency arguments in some circumstances, we lead the vast majority of Virginians in quality of life [for our tax dollars] precisely because of how ArlCo is run.

          I’m happy to work to improve ArlCo priorities, efficiencies and oversight, but I think it’s work around the margins. Otherwise, ArlCo is quite effective at its core mandate for its citizens and corporate people.

        • drax

          Kev wants MUCH more than that though.

          • SomeGuy

            And that’s the rub. We each have our own opinion of what “fair share” means. The amount and direction by which to shift the scale is ultimately what everyone fights about, but when it comes down to it, I don’t think most rational people are too far apart.

            Then again, “rational” is a subjective term too! 🙂

          • KalashniKEV

            I love that you guys even fell into the trap of using the term “Fair Share.”

            I would love to implement true Fairness and watch the entitlement crowd cry and cry…

          • drax

            I didn’t use the term fair share.

            But it’s funny that you want to cut the gub’mint by 2/3rds, but keep 1/3rd. Everyone but a radical anarchist believes at least some government is necessary, even you.

  • JimPB

    First a definite shortfall for FY 2014, now: “Board members fear significant cuts in the amount of funding the county receives from the state.”

    * No increase in tax rates and charges. Rely on growth for increased revenue. Little or no growth or even a decline — set priorities and eliminate and trim low priority projects and activities.

    * Time to rethink implementation of approved bond issues and the operating costs that they will impose if implemented.

    A: Put a hold on the Long Bridge Aquatic Center.

    Second: Assess construction of new schools. Build only if there is virtual certainly that the increased enrollment that the new schools would accommodate is enduring; for an episodic increase in enrollment, use trailers.

  • Meme

    It seems that we are constantly battling with Richmond and always coming out on the short end when we are one of the major contributors to the tax base…I often think there should be a 51st state called North Virginia comprised of Arlington Alexandria and Fairfax Counties.

    • bobbytiger

      You obviously haven’t kept up as to exactly why Richmond doesn’t care too much for Arlington County, have you?

      • drax

        I think maybe Meme just doesn’t care why/

  • People People

    People! You’re killing me:
    – “Alot” is not a word. “A lot” is. (2 words, actually)
    – “Loose” or “Loosing” is not the same as “Lose” or “Losing”

    You just sound ignorant and anything else you may have said gets tossed out the window.

    • grammar police

      out OF the window fancy pants

      • Tumblebum

        “Defenestration” would be even better. (and snootier)

  • Abe Froman

    The hypocrisy of our county board is epic and with limits. I can only chuckle at this article.

    • Josh S

      ep-ic n. 1. A long narrative poem celebrating the feats of a traditional or legendary hero. 2. A literary or dramatic composition resembling an epic. 3. A series of events considered suitable for an epic.

      Amazingly, my dictionary literally does not have a definition for the adjective use of the word “epic.” Of course it’s almost thirty years old. I guess the language has changed.

      In any case, my point is simply to poke fun at Abe’s use of the word epic here. Seems a wee bit over the top…..

      • WeiQiang

        i think he meant “THE MOST epic”.

        1: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic
        2a : extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope b : heroic

  • WeiQiang

    let me offer a substantive, vibrant opinion: no. your conclusion is logically flawed. you can’t come to a conclusion by invalidating condition #2.

    • SomeGuy

      WeiQiang, please explain.

  • nom de guerre

    You are correct. And Josh Ess is not able to admit that he does not know that the Potomac Yard Harris Teeter is a block away from the Water Pollution Control Plant, thus defining another instance in which he was uniformed.



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