The subjects for this blog will be related to local, regional and, on occasion, state politics. It is NOT associated with any political party or special interest group. It is my hope that all sides will boldly venture into the arena to do battle on behalf of their candidate or to defend a position. As is the case in the rough and tumble world of politics rules will be kept to a minimum. However, keep the comments at least PG rated. If you resort to name calling you are admitting defeat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tea Party-The Sequel-How will it Play at the State and Local Level?

A recent story in the Washington Post caught my attention regarding the Virginia Tea Party's plans to get involved in state and local elections to, "build a network of officials who someday rise through the ranks and compete for statewide (and I would presume federal) offices."

As one goes down the political food chain from federal to state to local not only does the amount of authority held by each level change but so does the focus. At the Federal level the debate focuses around programs, policies, and federal vs. state authority; while at the local level debates center more around service issues like education, pot holes, and trash pick-up. It got me wondering how the Tea Party message of overreaching, inefficient (corrupt) government and high taxes will translate to the more practical issues faced at the state and local level?

In my quest for losing a pound or two, and answering this nagging Tea Party question, I put aside my frozen, microwavable, Lean Cuisine entre, Google searched the Virginia Tea Party, and spent my lunch hour drafting a question or two which have now been forwarded on. So now we wait for a response...........

I read with interest the Tea Party's plans to get involved in local and state elections as a way groom like-minded individuals for higher office. I have been involved in Republican politics since the early 80's and spent the last eight years as a City Councilman in Fredericksburg. Up to this point the Tea Party's message has been rather broad--government has gotten too big, overreaching, and taxes are too high--and has been directed primarily at the federal government. I would be very interested in knowing what the message and agenda will be in dealing with state, and local issues. Below are a few questions regarding issues faced at the state/local level . Thank you in advance for taking the time to address them--

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT--For some, the main issue is not whether taxes are too high, but rather what is the legitimate role of government--federal, state, and local. A major part of the debate regarding taxes would be dealt with if we first establish what we should be paying for.

Does the Tea Party have the same view that like the feds, the size and scope of state and local governments also needs to be reduced? What specific issues, if any, does the party have with state and local governments?

THE DILLION RULE (Mandates)-- As you may be aware local jurisdictions have only the authority specifically granted to it by the state. This places pretty stringent restrictions on the authority of localities to both govern and provide taxes to support services --some of which are mandated by both the state and feds. State and federal funding continues to be cut and localities are left to make up the difference in areas like education, Constitutional Officers (Don't know why we still have them), and law enforcement.

Localities are looking for more flexibility in dealing with mandates (funded and unfunded) and in having more options in covering the cost of services--yes taxes would be on the table. But at the local level revenues stay local and for the most part pays for services. And residents have more of a say over the decisions of local government than at any other level.

Would the Tea Party support the repeal or significant modifications, of the Dillon Rule? What would be the party's position on fed/state mandates to localities unfunded and funded (never fully)?

TRANSPORTATION--Transportation I would hope we would all agree is a governmental responsibility. I hope we would all also agree that transportation in the Commonwealth of Virginia is a mess. The cost of maintenance continues to grow, and traditional revenue sources such as the gas tax continue to decline, leaving less money for needed road and transit improvements. The Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's (FAMPO--Spotsylvania, Stafford & Fredericksburg) 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan includes roughly $10 Billion in projects to maintain current levels of service. Over that same time FAMPO can expect only $3 billion in funding. A bit short.

Like many localities we are now looking at how the region will develop to see if changes can be made to streamline our transportation needs. We are also looking at funding alternatives such as toll roads. And there is no doubt that we also need to streamline the approval process for projects. But those efforts will not get us out of the hole we are in.

What is the Tea Party's position regarding future sustainable funding for transportation? Or are there other approaches to take short of additional funding that I have not addressed?

EDUCATION FUNDING (We will save a discussion on Education itself for another day)--The City of Fredericksburg has the lowest median income and the highest percentage of residents on fixed incomes in the region. It also, due to its size, has limited economic development opportunities. Currently the city is covering 80% of its school budget with local funds while adjacent counties which are more affluent, and have greater economic potential, are paying roughly 50%. The state formula for education is antiquated and ignores the current economic realities faced by localities in Virginia. This issue actually transcends just education to the issue of state support to localities in general. But for now we will stick to the educational component.

What is the Tea Party's position regarding the funding of education but also on how it is funded? Local vs. state.

These of course are only a few of the issues faced by state and local elected officials. Nor do they cover all aspects of the issues brought forward. Just trying to get an idea of the practical applications of the Tea Party philosophy at the local level. I look forward to your response.

I do hope I receive some answer's to my queries as my effort supports the Tea Party goal, " to encourage and facilitate citizen participation in the political process and empower all citizens with a voice and influence..." Should I receive an answer I will post it for further discussion.

I know there are many of you out there who would take issue with my questions and how they were posed. Please feel free to comment, or if you prefer, take a swing at a figurative sense.


Larry G said...

I'd be interested in hearing views on this.

I read the same article and has similar thoughts.

To date, I've yet to hear a Tea Party view of how local govt should work - i.e. tax and function.

I know the Spotsylvania Republican Party has repeatedly made the point that Senator Houck and the Spotsylvania BOS have supported dozens of tax increases over the last few years and imply that none or few of them were justified.

I'm assuming that Tea Party folks would have similar - perhaps even more anti-tax views?

Larry G said...

. ( to set email notice - for some reason on the initial post - it does not provide the box to check).