Policy Issue 3, Big Government: Follow The Money

This is the third in a series of five policy statements on issues that will come before the 2010 General Assembly. The second, regarding life, can be found here. Each statement covers one of The Family Foundation’s five areas of principle. The others will follow over the rest of the week.

Today marked the beginning of the 2010 General Assembly session. Twenty new members of the House of Delegates and two new members of the state Senate joined 118 incumbent legislators today to begin the new session. If one word can appropriately sum up the dominating focus of this year’s legislature it’s this:

$ Money $.

Not that money and the budget aren’t usually the dominate theme, but since the General Assembly is tasked with forming a budget covering the next two fiscal years, beginning July 1, and with spending at an all time high and revenues plummeting because of the economy, the pressure is on like no other time in recent memory. Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, who will take the oath of office Saturday, won his election by promising to not raise the tax burden on Virginia’s families and businesses. Some in the General Assembly are likely to fight for tax increases to cover the estimated $4 billion deficit in the current budget, plus projected revenue shortfalls for the next budget. Governor Kaine proposed an increase in the income tax to cover the "shortfall."

Truth be told, the problem they face is self-inflicted. By passing budgets and budget amendments in 2008 and 2009 that projected large revenue increases even as the economy was shrinking, and relying on one time windfalls from federal "stimulus" packages, the General Assembly and Governor Tim Kaine (Daily Press) made the bed in which they, and Governor-elect McDonnell, now lie.

Already, special interest groups and citizens have lined up at budget meetings pleading their case for their special needs to not be cut. Some claim that "the fat" has been trimmed so now we have to cut core services or raise taxes. Others live an illusion that fat alone will cover the deficits. The fact is, substantive changes have to be made to how the state allocates money for government education and social services programs.

The phrase "budget deficit" is a misnomer. In fact, the problem always had been a "spending surplus." Virginia government has plenty of money from the hardworking families of Virginia. What too many of our elected officials don’t have is the ability to control their spending habits.

The Family Foundation will monitor the budget talks all session and advocate proposals that will save taxpayers anything from small amounts of money to potentially billions of dollars. For example:

» Once and for all, we must stop taxpayer subsidies of the radical pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood (LifeNews.com). There is no reason this $1 billion organization should receive money from the taxpayers, especially in difficult economic times.

» The Family Foundation has asked Delegate Chris Peace (R-97, Mechanicsville) to submit legislation calling for a study to find out how much money would be saved by making Family Life Education, or sex-ed, an "opt-in" class instead of the current "opt-out."

» The most significant savings the taxpayers would see is by finally giving families the freedom to choose the type of education they want for their children through a tuition tax credit program. Not only would this save money, it would reduce class sizes, thus improving student-to-teacher ratios, increase per-pupil spending for students that stay in public schools, and improve the education outcomes for all Virginia’s school children.

» SOQ reform.

There are many who believe that we must continue to prop up state government by once again increasing the tax burden on families, even if these difficult times. The simple question for them is this: When does it stop? How much of our income is the government entitled to? Ten percent? Thirty? Fifty? All of it? Where do we draw the line?

We believe the line must be drawn here and now. Government must become more efficient and less intrusive. Freedom must be its ultimate purpose, not the redistribution of our wealth. If we are unable to stop this General Assembly from raising our tax burden now, we may never be able to again.