The Dixie Pig was my grandmother's favorite restaurant on U.S. 1 formerly located across from Beacon Mall where a Rite Aid now stands.

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The Dixie Pig Blog

  • Weekly Column: Ending Gridlock, Seeking Transportation Funds for Our Area

    Weekly Column: Ending Gridlock, Seeking Transportation Funds for Our Area

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of December 3, 2018.

    Ending Gridlock, Seeking Transportation Funds for Our Area
    As traffic congestion continues to plague us, I  am intensifying my fight for more transportation resources in our area.  Last week, I testified before the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and made the case for more funds for several critically needed transportation projects:  the I-95/Occoquan bottleneck, U.S. 1 widening and bus rapid transit, U.S. 1 in Dumfries and several other projects. 
    A few years ago, we began scoring projects based on objective criteria including congestion relief, economic development, environmental benefits and safety improvements.  Not surprisingly, U.S. 1 scored relatively high using these new metrics as compared to projects around the rest of Northern Virginia, a result that underscores my long-term point that U.S. 1 has been long ignored over the last few decades. 

    In 2013, we also created a regional transportation funding pool with regionally-administered taxes disbursed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).  About two months ago, the NVTA agreed to invest over $450 million in widening U.S. 1 in Hybla Valley, U.S. 1 bus rapid transit, reconstructing the CSX Bridge on U.S. 1 just north of I-95 and acquiring right-of-way  on U.S. 1 through the town of Dumfries.  
    The CTB was considering eight projects in the 36th Senate District. 
    I pointed out that the I-95/Occoquan Bottleneck is chronically jammed. This is my constituents’ number one traffic complaint.  Prince William County has asked the CTB to allocate $25 million to add a lane between VA-123 and the Prince William County Parkway in both directions.  Achieving this will require a payment to Transurban to compensate it for lost tolls.  I have been pressing Governor Ralph Northam to negotiate this quickly and I am hopeful we might have progress soon.   
    I also supported Fairfax County’s request for an additional $139 million to fund U.S. 1 widening and U.S. 1 bus rapid transit from Huntington Metro to the Woodbridge VRE Station.  This project has become more expensive and the more money the state invests, the more likely the federal government will award a significant transit grant to fund the balance of the project.  These funds, coupled with the $377 million already allocated by the NVTA, are real investments in U.S. 1.  This is also one of the largest transit projects pending in the entire state. 
    I argued for investing $77 million in building a new interchange at U.S. 1 and VA-123 just south of the Occoquan River.  The Virginia Railway Express Station there will bring significant growth to that area.  This project will help people cross U.S. 1 more safely, keep traffic moving, support predicted growth and facilitate commuting. 
    I requested $77 million to support the $45 million allocated by the NVTA to complete rebuilding U.S. 1 through Dumfries.  Each time I-95 is gridlocked, Dumfries gets pummeled.  The existing configuration of U.S. 1 has limited economic development in the town and this project will transform the town with new sidewalks and multi-use paths.  
    Lastly, I supported two smaller Prince William County projects -- $8 million to improve the intersection of Old Bridge Road and Occoquan Road and $32 million to complete Summit School Road’s connection with Telegraph Road near the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge.  Interconnectivity is critical in this area as it continues to develop because of its proximity to I-95 and the Potomac Mills Shopping Mall. 
    Overall, we have requested an additional $360 million to couple with the $434 million allocated by the NVTA for the U.S. 1/I-95 Corridor.  The new transportation taxes we enacted in 2013 are finally starting to pay dividends.  I will continue my work to see that transportation officials fund our requests. 
    It is an honor to serve as your state senator.  Email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback.

  • Weekly Column: Federal Tax Reform to Force Action at 2019 General Assembly Session

    Weekly Column: Federal Tax Reform to Force Action at 2019 General Assembly Session

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of November 26, 2018.


    Federal Tax Reform to Force Action at 2019 General Assembly Session
    At a recent Senate Finance Committee retreat, state legislators had a preview of economic and revenue projections and other significant issues expected to be debated in the 2019 General Assembly session.
    A vice-president of Moody’s Analytics said that Virginia’s economy continues to perform well due to increased federal spending coupled with federal tax cuts.  However, he likened the performance to a sugar high and said that indicators are starting to point toward a recession in the next two years because of increased interest rates and increased import/export tariffs.  He cautioned that rising lending could exacerbate a recession.  He also noted that Virginia’s budget was well positioned for a recession because we have bolstered our Rainy Day Fund.
    Next, we examined the state budget.  Nearly 70 percent of Virginia’s general fund revenue comes from income taxes.   Traditionally, Virginia has been a “conforming” state, meaning that the Virginia’s definition of adjusted gross income is identical to the federal definition and taxpayers and accountants do not have to use two different sets of rules to figure out taxes.  However, the tax bill passed by Congress in early 2018 significantly rewrote what constitutes income and limited deductions.  Most significantly, Congress and President Trump limited the deductibility of real estate taxes and state and local income taxes to a total of $10,000 (aka “SALT”).
    While most Virginians will see a combined net decrease or no change in their combined federal and state tax liability, many taxpayers who save on federal taxes, might end up paying more on their state taxes due to the limitation on SALT because Virginia historically requires taxpayers to claim the same deductions on their state income tax returns as on their federal returns.  If Virginia continues to conform consistent with our traditional policy, the Commonwealth will see additional revenue of about $600 million per year. 
    New state revenue is desperately needed.  Virginia is still not funding K-12 education at the levels reached pre-2009 and preschool funding is still marginal.  Our higher education funding is about half of the state goal.  Our safety net funding for services like subsidized childcare, temporary assistance for needy families and mental health care is abysmal.  Notwithstanding these needs, I suspect some legislators will propose a broad tax cut even though most Virginians’ combined tax liability will be about break even.
    Governor Northam has also proposed to use part of the new revenue to fund a focused tax cut for low-income, working Virginians by making the Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable.  Today, if a taxpayer claims the EITC and their refund exceeds their tax liability, they receive a federal refund, but no state refund.  Refundability would benefit about 15,700 taxpayers here in the 36th District and 90,000 taxpayers in Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford Counties.  
    Even though low- and moderate-income taxpayers make up half of Virginia taxpayers, they are projected to receive only six percent of the benefit from federal tax cuts.  This would also help to restore some fairness to Virginia’s income tax which is basically a flat tax today. 
    Also, earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Wayfair case, reversed longstanding precedent and held that states can now tax internet sales.  Many online retailers, such as Amazon, were already paying sales taxes because they already had a physical presence in Virginia (distribution or data centers).  The additional revenue from taxing internet sales will be about $124.7 million off $2.9 billion in sales activity, but after mandatory allocations for secondary education and transportation, the net additional revenue to the General Fund is projected to be only about $58 million per year. 
    While state revenues have come in around $555 million over original forecasts, expenses are also  higher.  Specifically, forecasted Medicaid spending was off by $469 million along with about $200 million in other obligations such as Hurricane Florence expenditures, opiate epidemic-driven, public safety expenditures, mental health expenses and the projected Amazon investments which will consumer much of the higher revenues. 
    The 2019 session is likely to be a very significant session for tax policy and spending decisions.  If you have any feedback, please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org
    It is an honor to serve as your state senator.