Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Metro Shutdown Begins Saturday

Crumbling Platform Braddock RdThis summer, Metro will shut down all six stations south of DCA. This work is the result of dedicated funding I supported in the 2019 budget. Metro will be providing shuttle bus services. Please find information below from Metro, VDOT, and the Washington Area Bicycling Association about transportation alternatives including bicycle and bus services.

2019 Platform Improvement Project Activities

Metro's contractor will work concurrently at all six stations south of National Airport in summer 2019 to expedite construction and ensure the stations are ready to reopen for customers after September 8.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Thoughts On Changes to the GW Parkway

Due to last week's fatal collision, there has been renewed discussion in safety on the George Washington Parkway (GWP) in the last week.

Delegate Paul Krizek and I have been working with Congressman Don Beyer to do something about this for some time. 


Two years ago, the National Park Service stated they intended to conduct a traffic safety study.  That has not occurred yet.

In the meantime, as we move forward with a discussion about dealing with safety deficiencies on the road, we have been hearing lots of ideas about how to reconfigure the road including major changes to intersections, lanes, or stoplights.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Weekly Column: Northern Virginia’s Public Schools Are Not “Fully Funded”

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of April 29, 2019.

Northern Virginia’s Public Schools Are Not “Fully Funded”

As election year heats up, some candidates use terms like “fully funded” schools.  Here’s my perspective on the subject.   
First, Virginia’s median family income is ninth in the United States.  It is largely driven by Northern Virginia counties: Fairfax County (3rd - $106,690), Stafford County (5th - $95,927), and Prince William County (6th – $93,011).  Fairfax, Stafford and Prince William Counties rank in the top 1% of all American jurisdictions - 3rd, 19th and 20th in the entire USA.  
However, per pupil investment in elementary-secondary education ranks orders of magnitude lower.  Virginia is 22nd in the country in per pupil spending, averaging around $11,432.  Arlington County leads Virginia at $19,348 per student even with a lower median income than Fairfax County.  Fairfax County “fully funds” FCPS by spending 21% less than Arlington or $15,293 per student, Prince William spends $12,427 and Stafford spends $11,319.  

Monday, April 1, 2019

Tell VDOT to Give Cyclists and Pedestrians and Cyclists a Safer Way to Cross a Multimodal U.S. 1 in 7 years!



VDOT is finalizing plans to widen U.S. 1. One of the important decisions they still need to make is whether to install an underpass below the highway at Little Hunting Creek and another at Dogue Creek.  Over the last public hearing, they have received mixed feedback over whether meeting attendees would "use" the underpass, but the meetings were largely attended by people who do not live near the crossings.

The underpass would provide many benefits:

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Weekly Column: Major Bills From 2019 Session

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of March 26, 2019.

The 2019 General Assembly Session ended on February 28.  In the last two columns I covered my personal legislative agenda and the state budget.  In this column, I will highlight some other important bills that passed.  
We enacted two significant economic development packages.  While I am generally skeptical of using taxpayer dollars for economic development incentives such as movie production tax credits, I am supportive to projects that can generate long-term jobs.  
The Amazon project is projected to create between 25,000 and 37,500 jobs with average wages of $150,000 or more.  The Commonwealth has committed to fund $22,000 per job for the first 25,000 jobs and $15,564 per job for the second 12,500 jobs after they are created. Tax revenue will pay for each commitment within a few years of creation and will have a 6:1 lifetime return on investment for taxpayers over $1.2 billion of new tax revenue overall.  The Commonwealth has also committed to $295 million of transportation investments into Metro, National Airport, and U.S. 1 which will make the community truly multimodal.  Virginia Tech has also committed to build a $1 billion Innovation Campus next door. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Comment on Route 1 Widening in Fairfax County


Next week, VDOT will host public information sessions on the future of U.S. 1 widening in Fairfax County. This is your opportunity to learn about the project and make your voice heard before the final design is established. The event will be at Mount Vernon High School from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on March 26.

I am collecting comments and will share them with VDOT. Please complete my survey herehttp://bit.ly/Rt1CommentForm

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Weekly Column: 2019 State Budget Misses Opportunities

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of March 19, 2019.

The 2019 General Assembly session adjourned on February 24 after a few hiccups.  Two weeks ago, I discussed the legislation that I passed.  In this column, I will explain various budget actions we took. 
First, unlike the Federal Government, our budget is balanced as required by the Constitution of Virginia. Next, the General Assembly needed to address modifications to our tax code to bring it up to speed with changes made by Congress with the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2018.  This is usually labelled “conformity.”  “Straight conformity” would cause an additional $600 million of state revenue largely due to the interplay between the new increased federal standard deduction and the $10,000 cap on state and local taxes and mortgage interest (“SALT”).   
We addressed this in two phases.  First, for the 2018 tax year, every taxpayer receives $110 refund if tax returns are filed before June 30.  
For tax years 2020 through 2026, the state standard deduction is raised by $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for joint filers.  This is worth about $86 per year for individuals or $172 per couple.  The budget also removes the $10,000 cap on SALT for state income taxes.  However, due to our low 5.75% state income tax rate, that is only worth roughly about $575 if you pay $20,000 of combined income taxes and mortgage interest or $1100 if you pay over $30,000 per year. 
These combined actions took about $450 million out of our annual revenues on an annual basis or $2.7 billion over six years and limited our ability to fund multiple priorities.   
Notwithstanding, we were able to fund a few things.  First, we increased secondary funds to secondary education by $50 million.  This included pushing the teacher pay increase from 3% to 5%, $12 million in new school counselors statewide, and $24.9 million in new dollars for At-Risk students.  
Virginia’s state-supported universities received a $57.5 million increase in funds conditioned on a tuition freeze for 2019 and $168 million to build the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus at Potomac Yards in connection with the Amazon project.  We also added $5 million in support for our community colleges, $16.6 million to increase computer science degrees, and $4 million towards Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program (AKA “FastForward”).   
We increased Virginia’s contribution to the Housing Trust Fund by $3 million per year to a total of $14 million per year.   
The money committees also included my proposal to hire staff at prisons and study the Commonwealth’s ability to provide earlier reparative therapy to sex offenders in state prisons instead of waiting until they have completed their jail sentence.  Historically, providing these services in post-jail secure inpatient facility have cost nearly twice as much as prison.  Starting earlier and shortening civil commitment will save taxpayers millions.  
We finally started the process of investing in rural broadband with a $15 million investment along with $1 million in Enterprise Zone grants to encourage solar.  
Virginia’s cash reserves will stand at $1.45 billion at the end of the biennium which is a strong hedge against a downturn in the economy.    
While the budget makes some progress, I also felt like it was a missed opportunity to make progress on long standing funding priorities because there are many priorities the General Assembly could have funded if we had not cut taxes.  First, our secondary education funding continues to lag behind our re-Great Recession historic commitment.  Virginia’s teachers remain some of the lowest paid in the nation.  Virginia’s higher education system remains a crown jewel, but our college tuitions are some of the highest in the nation.  We not only need to freeze tuition but roll it back.   
Virginia also has thousands of families waiting for childcare subsidies so parents (mainly mothers) can go back to work.   We still have 12,000 families waiting for Medicaid services for mentally and developmentally disabled children.  Virginia’s public employees remain significantly behind private sector wages which hurts retention and proficiency.  The construction backlog and staffing needs at Virginia’s State Parks is over $100 million while demand for parks skyrockets.   
Please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Weekly Column: 16 Bills on the Governor's Desk!

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of February 25, 2019.

16 Bills on the Governor’s Desk!
The 2019 Session is now in the books.  Notwithstanding the controversy generated by our statewide officials, it was one of the most personally successful sessions in the 10 years I have served in the General Assembly.  This column focuses on my personal legislative agenda. 
First, Governor Northam announced a deal to widen I-95 southbound between VA-123 and the Prince William County Parkway in three years using no taxpayer funds and no penalty payment to Transurban.  I have been urging this solution for three years and it will save millions of drivers millions of hours per month when implemented. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Weekly Column: Budget Compromise, Child Support Deadbeats & Session End Approaches

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of February 18 2019.

It is hard to believe, but the last week of the General Assembly has arrived and we hope to gavel out by this coming Saturday.  This past week was very busy as we tried to complete work on bills from opposite chamber and negotiated amendments to the budget. 
First, the Governor and the money committees announced an agreement regarding tax conformity and the revenue side of the budget.  The compromise provides a $110 refund for each tax return (individual or joint) this year.  From 2020 to 2026, it increases the standard deduction at the state level by $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for joint filers – resulting in $86 in savings for individuals and $172 for couples.  The bill also removes the $10,000 cap on itemized deductions for state taxes.  Given the state income tax is only 5.75%, the tax relief afforded is about $57.50 for every $1,000 of additional mortgage interest, state or local property taxes paid over and above $10,000.  
I was not happy with this proposal for several reasons.  First, it takes about $450 million per year out of the state budget which could fund desperately underfunded General Fund (non-transportation) priorities such as secondary education, higher education, childcare, healthcare, safety net, environmental protection, parks, and public safety.  Second, most of the people receiving the bulk of these cuts are already receiving big federal tax cuts while we run the biggest deficits in United States history instead of following the Governor’s proposal to target modest tax relief targeted to low wage working Virginia families.  This week, negotiators will attempt to finalize the expenditure side of the budget. 
Next, my legislation to modernize child support collection continued to move through the process.  There is over $2.4 billion of delinquent child support in Virginia.   When child support goes unpaid with low income families, it is often paid by taxpayers through the state’s Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) and it is recovered through the Commonwealth’s Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE).  In the last five years, child support deadbeats have begun to seek employment with “gig economy” companies as independent contractors such as Uber and Lyft who are exempt from child support withholding.  My legislation would change that and passed the Courts Civil Subcommittee by one vote.   
My legislation to change the Town of Dumfries Town Charter to move elections from May to November passed the full House and Senate.  There is no need for taxpayers to fund separate elections, especially when they result in much lower turnouts.   
The legislation I introduced to create a pilot project to provide Fairfax County with an additional tool to fund underground utilities on U.S. 1 passed the House Commerce and Labor Committee and should be up for a final vote this Tuesday.   
Next, my bill to give Fairfax County authority to fine retailers for rogue shopping carts after refusing to pick them up for 10 days failed in a House subcommittee on a tie vote.  Several Mount Vernon and Springfield residents testified about the disruption loose carts cause in neighborhoods, sidewalks, and the environment – I have now removed over 250 shopping carts from Little Hunting Creek alone.  We will try again next year. 
Also, my bill to enhance prohibit cars from illegally passed other cars by using bike lanes and creating a new serious traffic offense for seriously injuring a cyclist or pedestrian while distracted passed the House Transportation Committee, but was killed by the House Courts of Justice Committee.  Many rural members do not understand the need for better cycling safety rules. 
My legislation to creates consequences for destroying public records to avoid a Freedom of Information Act passed, but only after fines for violating the state’s public meetings law were removed.  I am moving the bill into a conference committee to negotiate a compromise because the closed meeting rule is routinely abused.   
Finally, on Wednesday, I held my annual Facebook Townhall.  Over 56 constituents posted questions and about 1,500 have viewed the 90-minute town hall.  You can watch the recorded version on my official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/surovell.   
Please contact me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any questions.  It is an honor to represent you in the Senate of Virginia.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Weekly Column: Passing Bills, Serving the Public

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of February 11, 2019.

Passing Bills, Serving the Public

Last week in the General Assembly was a week of accomplishments, revelations and stress. 
The Senate approved and sent to the House of Delegates 20 of my 25 bills  and added several of my budget amendments to the Senate budget. 
The Senate  agreed to $2 million to study extending Metro’s Blue Line to Lorton, Woodbridge and Potomac Mills, along with enhanced transit on U.S. 1 in Prince William County.  I have been fighting for this for three years and with Senator George Barker’s help, we got it included in the Senate budget.  Additionally, my proposal to fund additional treatment services and a study for incarcerated, sexually-violent predators was included so that they can  receive treatment before they are committed to a post-incarceration civil treatment facility, an approach that costs taxpayers significantly more per day than a standard jail.  There is no reason to delay therapy until they have completed their sentence.  This will save taxpayers millions of dollars if it works. 
The Senate, on a 37-2-1 vote, passed my bill to create a framework to clean up Virginia’s coal ash repositories.  The bill requires at least 6.8 million cubic yards of the 27 million cubic yards to be recycled into “encapsulated” products like bricks, cinderblocks or cement.  The bill also requires Dominion to work with localities to minimize transportation impacts; to give priority to local workers; and to continually seek proposals to recycle ash as technology evolves so that we can minimize coal ash landfill storage.  While the bill is not everything I want, it achieves my primary objectives to prohibit “cap in place” or using old leaky ash ponds to store ash forever and to promote recycling. 
On a vote of 29-11, the Senate passed my legislation to give Fairfax County an additional tool to pay for underground utilities on U.S. 1.  The bill allows the County to pay for underground utilities and then recover the cost by levying a utility fee that will cost about $0.80-0.90 per month.  I have heard loud and clear from my constituents that they want underground utilities on U.S. 1.  Prince William County’s government funded it for all 10 miles of U.S. 1.  If Prince William can afford it, so can Fairfax County, and I am hoping to provide County officials with a method to do it. 
On a vote of 34-6, the Senate passed my bill to create penalties for government officials who intentionally try to avoid our sunshine laws.  The bill creates penalties for destroying public records to avoid the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and penalties for officials who incorrectly vote to certify that they only discussed specifically exempted and previously-announced matters in closed public meetings.  
I also passed legislation clarifying that cars cannot use bike lanes to pass other vehicles and making it easier to convict drivers for seriously injuring cyclists and pedestrians.  U.S. 1 is the deadliest road in Virginia for pedestrians and pedestrian deaths are up by 50 percent in the last five years in Virginia.  Most injured cyclists and pedestrians cannot remember what happened or are killed when struck.  This will help balance the playing field on the criminal side of justice. 
Finally, this was another rough week as the Governor’s situation continued to percolate, the Attorney General admitted to using blackface at age 19 in college and two different women accused our Lieutenant Governor of sexual assault.  We were initially willing to wait for time and information after one accusation was made, but when a second woman 4,000 miles away made a very serious allegation, it was clear to some of us that this was becoming an issue that could distract from his duties. The Senate Democratic, House Democratic and Legislative Black Caucuses and called for his resignation.  I am continuing to assess my position on the situations and welcome your input. 
Please weigh in on my constituent survey at http://bit.ly/sd362019survey and email me at scott@scottsurovell.org with your feedback.  I will host a town hall meeting on Facebook on February 13, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.  I hope you will watch and participate online at www.facebook.com/surovell.  It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Session Interviews with Cable Reports

Every year, I interview with Cable Reports to preview the General Assembly Session.  This year, I did two interviews - one focusing on Fairfax County and the other on Prince William and Stafford Counties. During these interview we were able to cover a wide array topics from the Governor's agenda to items that specifically affect the constituents within my district. I was glad to discuss the coal ash removal bill that was supported by the Governor. We went on to discuss my legislation on predatory lending, the urgency of passing tax conformity, underground utility lines, the tolling situation on I-81 and bi-partisan redistricting.

Fairfax County


Prince William County


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Weeky #4: A Week of Highs and Lows in the State Legislature

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Prince William Times, The Fort Hunt Herald, and Potomac Local in the week of February 3, 2019.


A Week of Highs and Lows in the State Legislature

The fourth week of this session of the General Assembly brought some of greatest highs and greatest lows I have ever experienced in my 10 years serving in the General Assembly. 
In a Monday, January 29 press conference with Governor Northam, we announced a new agreement with Transurban to start the immediate construction of a new lane southbound on I-95 between VA-123 and the Prince William County Parkway. Transurban agreed to waive any compensation event or penalty payment on their existing contract.  With this agreement, we much closer to removing the worst bottleneck in all of Northern Virginia, the most frequent transportation complaint I receive - a traffic nightmare that costs millions of Virginians millions of hours of lost productivity.