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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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County supports planning district’s legislative agenda

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

As the 2013 General Assembly session approaches, counties across the state are sending in legislative priorities for lawmakers.

Franklin County recently approved a platform as part of the West Piedmont Planning District, which also includes the counties of Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania, the cities of Danville and Martinsville, and the Town of Rocky Mount.

The platform addresses issues from taxes to environmental regulations, including unfunded state mandates.

Those mandates "strain local government budgets and place additional pressure on the real estate tax," the platform says. "State-initiated services and programs should be supported by state funds, not rely on local funds to supplant state dollars."

Legislators are being asked to reduce state mandates when funding is reduced, which would save localities money.

They are also urged to oppose any legislation intended to restrict local taxing authority and revenues.

"Restrictions such as these will result largely in increases in taxes on local businesses," the platform said. "Local governments bear a disproportionate share of costs for many programs as the state increasingly shifts costs to local governments. Limiting taxation powers of local governments will significantly reduce their capacity to perform necessary and vital services and functions."

One area that has been hit hard by that shifting of costs is public education. An increase in state funding for education is also on the planning district's wish list.

As that funding has decreased in recent years, localities "are shouldering an even greater share of public education funding, which has resulted in the school systems trying to do more with less -- less staff, larger classroom sizes, less equipment and aging facilities."

The platform said Virginia has several educational regulations that actually exceed federal guidelines, costing localities more money, and any state mandates that are above and beyond federal requirements should be eliminated.

On regulations, the platform said many new requirements as well as current environmental regulations under the state Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Army Corps of Engineers "present a roadblock to Virginia's economic development motto, 'Virginia: Open for Business'."

"We advocate legislation and policy initiatives that provide sufficient resources to implement the least costly and most efficient mandates," the platform states, adding that the state government "cannot ignore the financial limitations" facing localities in resolving many issues related to regulations, from water quality protection to stormwater runoff to lawn care and home chemicals.

"Without adequate funding sources and data to assist local governments, water quality will not improve," the platform says.

The 2013 session of the General Assembly begins Jan. 9.

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