Constituents in the 86th district were able to hear an update from Del. Tom Rust, as well as ask their own questions, during his town hall meeting on Saturday at the Herndon Council Chambers.
Rust said during the first three days in session they heard about 2,000 bills. He said Virginia is one of four states in the country with a AAA bond rating, and is fiscally conservative due to its constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget.
“Money is basically what drives everything down there,” Rust said. He said it doesn’t matter what the issue is, “if we don’t have the money, we don’t do it.”
Rust said currently Medicaid takes up 21 percent of the entire general fund budget and is growing at an unsustainable rate.
One resident in attendance said she would like to see Virginia’s prison system do away with solitary confinement. She said solitary confinement doesn’t truly solve anything, and doing so would save the state up to $50 million each year.
She also said there hasn’t been any studies on Virginia’s prison system and it is behind the times.
Another constituent in attendance said he would like to see a new rail system that starts in Winchester and continues east, retrograding the W&OD Trail back into rail, finally connecting at the East Falls Church Metro Station. He said due to a constitutional amendment, Virginia could take the extra land needed for the greater good.
The resident said it would help alleviate traffic, get rid of crime on the trail, and those who use the trail for exercise could get a gym membership as an alternative.
Rust said because the W&OD Trail is a park that receives federal funding, there would be big strings attached. He said the federal money used on it would need to be reimbursed, and the parkland would need to be replaced at a 4:1 ratio elsewhere.
Rust also addressed a question from a Boy Scout on traffic. The Scout asked what could be done about traffic increasing on secondary roads because of drivers avoiding the Dulles Toll Road due to increasing tolls.
Rust said one of the things being done is an attempt to have Virginia take over control of the Greenway so tolls could be set by the state. He said they are also going after more federal funding to help bring down rates on the Dulls Toll Road.
When attendees asked if users of the Dulles Airport Access Highway could pay a toll as well, Rust said that’s more difficult to do. He said the only way to toll the users of the Access Highway is to have legislation passed in US Congress because the federal government owns the property.
Constituents also told Rust they didn’t agree with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan for the gas tax and sales tax. (Read more about McDonnell’s plan by clicking here.)
Rust said his House Bill 2063 is in direct conflict with the governor’s bill, and the final result may be some combination of what has been suggested in Richmond. Additionally, McDonnell's plan doesn't solve the transportation funding issues facing the Commonwealth, Rust said.
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