An Urban/Rural Split in the New Democratic Majority?

The Democrats may have taken power in the state Senate, but people are already worrying how well the new-found majority will hang together. Incoming Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, has said the changes could mean more money for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. If that funding shift comes at the expense of rural Virginia, what happens to the Democrats’ four rural/small town senators?

Tim Craig with the Washington Post has written a piece exploring the potential division within the Democratic majority.

“I think there is already some tension,” said Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell), who represents coal country in southwestern Virginia. “I have just asked for some fairness. I understand the seniority system, but at the same time, rural Democratic legislators are concerned.”

As I’ve long maintained, General Assembly politics is driven by regional interests as much as philosophical principles. If the new Democratic majority expends a lot of effort rejiggering funding allocation formulas — most notably for schools and roads — rural legislators of both parties will unite against them faster than you can shake a stick. Things could get messy.

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7 responses to “An Urban/Rural Split in the New Democratic Majority?”

  1. How many rural Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?

    Four. One to change the bulb and three to stand around talking about how good the old bulb was.

    Tick tock…

    2007 state-wide elections.

    Tock tock….

    2010 US Census

    Tick tock….

    2012 redistricting

    Tick tock ….

    Legal aliens register to vote (maybe a few illegal aliens too)

    The clock is ticking down on rural Virginia’s reign of economic terror.

    IF the funding allocation methods (aka institutional theft) are changed….?

    No Jim – WHEN the funding allocation methods (aka institutional theft) are changed.

    When you have no economic development and, therefore, no jobs – everybody moves elsewhere. Then you have no political power either. Democracy is such a burden – what with the majority deciding things and all.

    Virginia’s official state TV show may even change. Suburban Housewives in place of Hee Haw?

    How many Northern Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?

    None. They are all stuck in traffic trying to get home.

    6:25 AM

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    This will look familiar to JAB….

    Cutline: Taxpayers may bear larger school burden in Westmoreland

    Released last month by the Virginia Department of Education, the new composite index determines the amount of state and local funding for public schools. Higher index numbers mean less state and more local funding for education in the next two years.

    Westmoreland County’s index rose from .4076 to .5173. The change could result in a decrease of $1.5 million in state school funding and a local increase of $1.5 million “just to stay where we are,” County Administrator Norm Risavi told Westmoreland supervisors yesterday.

    The county would have to raise real-estate taxes by 8.7 cents to raise the extra money, Risavi said. The county’s current tax rate is 44 cents for each $100 of assessed value.

    Now, Westmoreland is a wretchedly poor county compared to many other counties including Spotsylvania and Stafford.

    Here are the numbers – which make no sense to me…..

    007 ARLINGTON .8000
    029 FAIRFAX COUNTY .7456
    053 LOUDOUN .6895
    088 SPOTSYLVANIA .3455
    089 STAFFORD .3503
    090 SURRY2 .7842
    095 WESTMORELAND .4076
    021 CHESTERFIELD .3616

    It was pointed out that Westmoreland has some high dollar waterfront which may have “screwed” the numbers which makes me wonder if the state formula takes into account the MEDIAN property tax because while Westmoreland does have high dollar waterfront it also has virtually no industry and many folks who are basically lucky to have a piece of land and a modest home and certainly cannot afford a major property tax increase

    fully 70% of the students in the county are officially classified as economically disadvantaged.

    So… this makes absolutely no sense and apparently the folks at the State level did not QA this decision.

    Now this is the opposite of the point that Groveton is making… this is clearly a situation where a poor rural school is getting screwed but what it points out is how arbitrary and capricious and how totally lacking in just plain common sense that Virginia does this process.

    And I continue to be totally amazed at ALL of those fiscal conservatives elected to office only know how to parrot “no new taxes” instead of dealing with our byzantine fiscal policies.

    I don’t think most of us including those in NoVa would mind doing their fair share to help truly needy kids in truly needy counties but it galls many to realize that the state apparently has no clue, nor inclination (including our legislators) on how to maintain an equitable system.

  3. Westmoreland County:

    The median income for a household in the county was $35,797, and the median income for a family was $41,357.

    Chesterfield County:

    The median income for a household in the county was $58,537, and the median income for a family was $65,058

    And for some real hard times – Wise County:

    The median income for a household in the county was $26,149, and the median income for a family was $32,898.

    So, Wise County wins the “poor off” against Westmoreland County. However, Wise County real estate tax rate is $.57 per $100 while Westmoreland’s tax rate is $.44 per $100. Chesterfield is something like $.97 per $100.

    And the Wise index is .2036.

    Why does Westmoreland get relatively less from the state (vs local) than far richer Chesterfield? Because the state won’t blatently subsize Westmoreland’s somewhat absurd real estate tax rate? I’d like to think that the state has this much wisdom.

    Why does Wise County get the most from the state (vs. local)? Because they are the poorest and they have a real estate tax rate that shows they are trying to help themselves?

    Larry, your points are very much in accordance with my position on this matter. Virginia’s “locality welfare” program has little to do with helping poor kids get a decent education. First, there is no consistent tie between per capita income and “locality welfare”. Second, the families of rich kids living in Westmoreland’s waterfront homes are subsidized by the families of poor kids living in Fairfax County. And there are three times more poor people living in Fairfax County than there are total people living in Westmoreland County.

    Finally, everybody on welfare should have a plan to get off welfare. This is what conservatives have always said about families on welfare. Why wouldn’t it apply to localities as well?

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Groveton – you’re a whiz with stats!

    But Westmorelands index is higher that both Spotsylvania and Stafford.

    How can that be?

    What criteria is the state using to determine that Westmorelands ability to pay is higher than – not only Spotsylvania and Stafford but Chesterfield also?

    I demur slightly from tying welfare to kids being afforded an opportunity for a good education though.

    Welfare is the direct result of our failure to insure that enough kids who are capable but live in disadvantaged circumstances – have equitable access to a competitive education.

    Further, if we can’t properly distinguish the difference between the real needs of kids in Westmoreland – 70% classified as economically disadvantaged with Stafford and Spotsylvania – 30% in that condition – then we are, in effect, creating more adult welfare cases.

    One possible reform (besides getting the demographic calibrations correct) would be for the state to require equity funding from a locality to match the state-aid SOQ.

    The problem we have now is best illustrated by Senator Norments predilection to treat taxes and unquestionable sources of revenues whether they are fair or just or not.

  5. What bothers conservatives about family welfare is the permanenance of it. All right thunking people believe that families should have “safety nets” for when they fall on hard times. However, people should climb out of the nets – not stay there forever. This is what is said when the governement puts food on the table and pays the rent for poor people (metaphorically speaking). When a locality has an unending need for transferred payments – I feel the same way that the conservatives feel about welfare for families. When will it end? And yes – giving children a fair education by taxing some people in one area more so that others in a different area can pay less in taxes is welfare. Jurisdictional welfare. If it’s unfair to stop jurisdictional welfare for education why is it fair to stop family welfare for food?

    I understand Westmoreland’s higher index to mean that they get less in transfers from the state for education. I assume it is because of their idiotically low real estate tax rate. In my opinion, a better question would be:

    “Why does a county with problems meeting minimal SOL scores keep its real estate taxes artifically low?”.

    The answer, unfortunately, is because others will pay for Westmoreland’s low taxes.

    You correctly point out that there are a number of high value waterfront properties in Westmoreland County. Do the ownersw of these homes really need to pay a .44% real estate tax so money from middle income people in Fairfax County can pay for Westmoreland’s schools? I think not.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “welfare for families. When will it end?”

    try.. promising every kid whose parents are on welfare and 100% guaranteed paid college or technical education if they maintain their grades.

    Jurisdictional welfare. Westmoreland’s higher index idiotically low real estate tax rate.
    “Why does a county with problems meeting minimal SOL scores keep its real estate taxes artifically low?”.

    because of the implications of the MEDIAN income….

    there are so really poor folks in that county who would lose what little land they have and manage to live on (without welfare) .. if their taxes go up and their income does not.

    In effect, you’d be pushing those on the edge.. over the side..

    the EASY/CURRENT answer: jurisdictional welfare

    suggest a realistic reform…

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    A question for you.

    If Fairfax and NoVa OX is being gored and it’s pretty clear the current jurisdictional welfare approach is not equitable…

    then WHERE is the NoVa legislative priorities agenda?

    It appears to me that most of your elected are sanguine … and feedback from their constituents as well as locally-elected of those constituents is focused on other issues.


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