Bolling: Focus on rest of budget, then transportation debate
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
RICHLANDS - Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling said the General Assembly should focus on immediate spending needs in education, jobs and health care before returning to the deadlock issue of transportation.
Bolling, joined by his wife Jean Ann and Republican Ninth District Congressional hopeful Del. Bill Carrico, kicked off a planned three-day circuit of Southwest Virginia Monday with visits to local business Consolidated Steel and Southwest Virginia Community College.
Bolling toured Consolidated's Wardell plant with owner Betty Matney Justus to view the business' fabrication work for industrial clients and for armor plating on military vehicles.
Afterward, Bolling met with Bob Tomlinson, SwVCC's vice president for instruction, to discuss community colleges' role in economic development.
"The transportation debate is more of a debate on taxes," Bolling told Tomlinson, adding that he saw education, health care and job creation as budget issues needing immediate attention. "I encourage people to come back to that debate."
Bolling said that community colleges represent one of many state spending areas that should not be held up by the ongoing stalemate between state House and Senate budget negotiators over whether state transportation projects should be funded through state surpluses or increases in various state taxes.
Bolling also cited community colleges as a key player in Virginia's ability to handle projected enrollment increases in public colleges and universities. He noted that existing and planned articulation agreements to give community college students guaranteed acceptance to state four-year institutions figure strongly in the higher education system' future.
Tomlinson said that the state's community college system has developed a strong network of regional articulation agreements with sister colleges and four-year institutions.
The next step is to statewide agreements among all Virginia public colleges, he added.
"I want to focus a lot of time on improving education, economic development and health care in Southwest Virginia," Bolling said.
Bolling later said that the transportation budget deadlock is still surrounded by many areas of agreement between House advocates of a no-tax-hike transportation budget and Senate calls for a dedicated, ongoing revenue source including some tax hikes.
That common ground, Bolling said, includes using budget surpluses and increase in state fees on auto insurance.
Bolling called the House Senate a "fair . . . important debate," but acknowledged that he saw little willingness for House budget leaders to compromise on tax increases for transportation revenue.
"We've got enough growth in the state economy to fund transportation projects," Bolling said. "The problem isn't enough money but not enough fiscal discipline.
"It's a healthy debate but one that's not going away soon."
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