Tax policy to be early battle in Va. legislature

Not surprisingly, Republican and Democratic plans differ

RICHMOND, Va. – The General Assembly session started in Richmond Wednesday and lawmakers continued to reveal how the early battle over tax policy may play out.

Virginia has to figure what to do with more than $400 million-plus surplus in income tax revenue, which piled up after changes at the federal level.

Both parties are still nailing down their plans. Republicans are pitching their proposals as more beneficial for the middle class. GOP leaders say that route makes the most sense because it would aim to return the tax money to those who paid it.

Sen. Bill Stanley, who represents areas from Franklin County to Southside, supports parts of the proposals.

“I think what we need to do is absolutely return every bit of this tax money to the hardworking Virginians that pay it into the system,” he said.

He’s critical of one Republican plan, which he says favors northern Virginia because it’s more beneficial for wealthier families. He supports the Senate GOP plan, which he says divides the money more evenly.

“I think we need to make sure that somehow we spread all of this bread upon the waters, and not just the waters near the Potomac, but also down near the Dan River and so we’re going to figure out a way to make sure that we benefit every Virginian in returning that money,” he said.

Democrats -- like Sen. John Edwards and Delegate Sam Rasoul, who represent Roanoke parts of the Roanoke area -- say their plans go further to give a boost to low-income Virginians by expanding the earned income tax credit.

“What the Republicans want to do is not help people making under $50,000 a year but to help people making more than that. I think it makes more sense to help people at the lower end of the income ladder,” Edwards said.

“You’re putting more money in the hands of people who are out there working hard and it helps them make ends meet. That’s very reasonable,” Rasoul said.

Republican leaders want to pass their proposal within the first two weeks of the session so the changes can apply to people filing this spring. That would put the measure in the category of emergency legislation, which needs support from 80 percent of the assembly, so Democrats will have to be on board.