Local Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

saslaw-fcnpSales Tax Holiday

This year, I sponsored legislation that became law to combine the existing sales tax holidays (SB 1319) to make it easier for Virginia families. The sales tax holiday will run from August 7 at 12:01 a.m. and end on Sunday, August 9 at 11:59 p.m. During the three-day sales tax holiday, consumers can buy school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness items, and Energy Star and WaterSense products without paying sales tax. Visit the Virginia Department of Taxation website to see a list of tax-exempt items: www.tax.virginia.gov.

The tax-free weekend is a great way to save money on back-to-school supplies. We are well into the hurricane season. If you missed the sales tax holiday in the spring, now is another chance to stock up on supplies. You may also want to explore some of the tax-exempt energy saving items.

Budget Surplus

Last month, Governor McAuliffe announced that Virginia is on pace to have a $427 million revenue surplus. This is a welcome change from last year when we faced a $439 million revenue shortfall, leaving massive gaps in the state budget. It’s great news for our Commonwealth on several fronts. It proves that the fiscally responsible decisions made by the Governor and the General Assembly are making a difference.

Keep in mind that by law the bulk of this surplus will go directly into Virginia’s rainy day fund. Another positive is that the surplus ensures a modest pay raise for state employees— including public school teachers and higher education faculty. This is a healthy sign for our economy and will help Virginia make the investments we need to expand job opportunities. In the month of May, Northern Virginia employment grew by 1.7 percent.

Annandale Road Maintenance

We have all had the undesirable experience of dodging the large potholes on Annandale Road. It is a topic that has come up at town hall meetings and civic association gatherings. I hear about the sad state of Annandale Road – a major artery in our area – everywhere I go.

I have some good news to report: after speaking with VDOT, they have let me know that they plan on repaving Annandale Road in the middle of September. Currently, the Water Authority is doing work below the road, so the paving start date is not set in stone. This project is long overdue, but this is welcome news for Northern Virginia drivers. Stay tuned for more updates on the progress. I will continue to pass along more information as I hear about it.

On this same topic of road maintenance, we recently received word from Secretary Layne’s office that the road construction fund is rapidly being depleted by the ever growing demands for road repair/maintenance. While road maintenance is essential, traffic abatement enhancements will be limited in the short term.

EnergyShare Program

Last week, I joined Governor McAuliffe in Annandale to announce the expansion of Dominion’s EnergyShare program. This program combines energy assistance and weatherization upgrades to the most vulnerable Virginians. Dominion has made a commitment of $57 million to expand EnergyShare, and it started by weatherizing a home on Holyoke Drive to demonstrate this project for the community. Families in the neighborhood were given energy conservation kits.

This is another positive outcome of SB 1349 for consumers and one of the reasons there was such bipartisan support for the legislation. At the request of Governor McAuliffe, we added two important amendments. First, we added an amendment requiring at least 400 megawatts of solar energy by 2020 – enough solar energy to power 100,000 homes. We also added the amendment that led to the EnergyShare program expansion – the low-income energy assistance and weatherization effort. The Governor asked me to carry this floor amendment and get it onto the bill, which I was pleased to do.

I hope others take advantage of this new initiative because it is a great way for consumers to keep energy costs down and maximize efficiency. In the end, it will help our Commonwealth and lower energy costs for low-income households with an emphasis on helping seniors, veterans, and those living with disabilities.

 


Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov.

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