By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Having been repeatedly hit with the cost of programs formerly funded by the state, localities are seeking to get earlier notice of unfunded mandates coming their way in the future.
Pulaski County Board of Supervisors has joined with other localities in passing a resolution asking the Virginia General Assembly to require its members to file bills no later than the first day of the session if the legislation will have a financial impact on localities. The proposal is being called the “First Day Introduction Requirement.”
“Many local governing bodies in Virginia including the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors have an ever-growing concern about the impact on localities of state mandates and cost shifting,” states the resolution passed by the Supervisors at its December meeting.
State code already requires the Commission on Local Government to file fiscal impact statements for bills that would require “a net additional expenditure” or “net reduction of revenues” for any county, city or town. Localities are now seeking to require such bills be filed on the first day of the session to allow time to assess the impacts.
The resolution contends, “Numerous bills fitting the criteria for local fiscal impact have been submitted and gone through the legislative process without review for local fiscal impacts due to limited time and resources to review these bills during the General Assembly session. … A need exists for additional time and resources to provide such information during the tight procedural confines of the current legislative process.”
The resolution adds, “We believe it is critical that lawmakers have better and timelier information on the fiscal impact to localities when they consider bills and budget items.”
In its list of legislative requests to local delegates and senators for the upcoming General Assembly session, county supervisors already were asking the state to “build a partnership” that has “deteriorated significantly” between local and state governments due to unfunded state mandates. Unfunded mandates are programs that used to be the state’s responsibility, but which have been transferred to localities without any funding to support them.
“There is a growing need for a true partnership between state and local government in order to make best use of taxpayer funds while meeting the needs of citizens paying state as well as local taxes,” the resolution notes.
Pulaski Town Manager Shawn Utt said the town has not considered support of such a resolution yet, but is interested in the concept. Dublin Town Manager Bill Parker said Dublin will not pursue such a resolution because “historical evidence supports the fact that the legislators do not heed such attempts of influence by the localities.”