As we prepare for the holiday season and the approaching new year, the activity in Richmond is picking up. But, the sugar plums there have dollar signs on them.
It is budget time in Richmond as the Governor’s staff puts the final touches on spending changes before printing the final tome.
On December 15, the “money” committees of the General Assembly will hear the Governor’s annual budget presentation.
So, 22 members each of the House Appropriations and Finance Committees and 15 members of the Senate Finance Committee will jointly meet to accept the Governor’s budget document.
Delegate Jim Scott serves on the Appropriations Committee and I serve on the Finance Committee, so we will both be there.
Turmoil Behind Us
The General Assembly approves a two-year spending plan in Virginia in the even-numbered year. We did so this year with difficulty.
It took a special session to do it. Approved at the last minute, it was signed by the Governor on the last day of the fiscal year.
We then continued on until September in a failed attempt to deal with transportation. No one wants to see anything like that happen again.
Luckily, we only need be to make small changes to this approved budget during the 2007 session which starts in January.
Change in Schedule?
Normally, an odd-numbered year session lasts for 45 days. But, some in Richmond have suggested only being there for 30 days this time.
They reason that, because we wrangled so long with the budget and transportation this year, there is nothing more to do.
That assumes that there is no middle ground and that the two sides – House Republicans versus everyone else – are stuck in their respective positions.
As you may recall, House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Governor thought that taxes should be raised to pay for new transportation initiatives.
But, a majority of House Republicans, who are in the majority there, stood firm against any tax increases at all. They think that there are other ways to build new roads and rail.
But, one of their sources of cash may be drying up. They long to use budget surpluses to fund transportation projects.
Yes, there was more revenue that came in this past fiscal year than we had projected. While we call that a surplus, the word is deceptive.
Not only do school costs go up annually because we always have more school children each year, but there are always unfunded priorities.
We list these at the end of the budget. Plus, we must by statute put any surplus funds into the Water Quality Improvement Fund and the so-called “Rainy Day Fund.”
Once you put your money into those funds and pay the unfunded priorities, there is little left over. But, there are many demands for it.
Question Marks Ahead
However, from what the staff of the House Appropriations Committee has presented, it looks like any future surpluses will be short lived.
The Committee held a retreat in Richmond a few weeks ago and invited House Finance Committee members. We learned that there is a hole in fiscal year 2009.
Unless some other source of revenue is identified, they project a shortfall of over $100 million. On top of that, the economy is slowing down.
Led by a sharp decline in homebuilding and real estate transactions, an economic decline is inevitable and we can expect less tax revenue over the next year.
With those question marks on the horizon, maybe a 30-day session does make sense.
Remembering JA the DJ
I was saddened to learn that Jack Alix, once the dominant disc jockey in this area, passed away on November 15 in Richmond.
During the 1960s, “JA the DJ,” as he was called, was the main man on Top-40 format AM radio. He started on station WEEL, located next to Fairfax High School, at 1310 on the AM radio dial.
I thought that he also worked at the other power house station in those days – WEAM, AM 1390 out of Arlington – but his obituary said otherwise.
The last radio station he worked for around here during that era was WPGC, from Morningside, Maryland, which was both AM and FM.
He graduated to management positions in radio and worked for stations around the country. But, he came back to Virginia and I listened to him for the past decade on a Richmond station.
It was sad to learn that Jack Alix had died, but thinking about that time brought back a lot of memories for me.
I remember that the big advertisers on the air were Mario’s Pizza House “in Arlington Town” and Eddie Leonard’s Sandwich Shop.
I remember in the mid-1960s when a neighbor, Arthur Klisath, Jr, called Chip, cut a record. He lived on Rogers Drive, so he adopted Chip Rogers as his stage name.
Chip made a 45 RPM record and the song on the A-side was called “The Broken Bridge.” He appeared on the Jack Alix show on WEEL to promote it.
JA the DJ was a legend in this area and I am sure he will be remembered by many.