- 4:21 pm - Wed, Apr 24, 2013
You might think that adding almost 10,000 jobs in the first three months of this year would be good news for Virginia, but when you find out that the size of the working-age population grew by more it puts a damper on the data. Read our full post at The Half Sheet.
- 3:03 pm
As coordinator of the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health at Voices for Virginia’s Children, I regularly talk to parents who are struggling to help their children with mental health issues. They are often extremely frustrated because they cannot find the treatment that their child needs in their community, or there is a long wait list for services, or their insurance won’t pay for the type of treatment their child needs.
Compounding these frustrations, many parents with whom I talk feel isolated. They don’t know other families struggling with children’s mental health disorders. They may not be receiving support from friends or their child’s school. Their families’ lives have been thrown into disarray – emotionally, logistically, and financially – as they try to find help for the child who needs it while continuing to work and take care of other children.
One question I often hear is, “Why it is so difficult to get help when your child has a mental health problem as opposed to a physical health problem?” The answer is complex, and the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is working to improve access to services through a variety of strategies.
The key to improving access to children’s mental health services – through every strategy we are using – is mobilizing the families who have experience with this issue. And there are more of you than you might think. Did you know that 1 in 5 children experience a mental health disorder? Chances are you DO know other families who have a child with ADHD, depression, anxiety, or another mental health challenge, but because of the stigma that still exists, you and they have never made the connection.
Part of what we do at the Campaign is help families realize the difference they can make by speaking out, and we equip them to do so. For example:
• Telling your stories can reduce the stigma of mental illness; together, we can help reduce the isolation so many families and children feel, and make it okay to ask for help.
• Walking advocates through the barriers your family has encountered as you’ve tried to seek help enables us to identify the policies that need to be changed or the types of services that need to be created.
• Sharing your experience with legislators can help them realize the real-life implications of the funding decisions they make.
One parent we’ve worked with at the Campaign is Shannon Haworth. After talking to lawmakers in Washington, DC, she was asked in a radio interview last summer what it feels like to advocate. She replied, “You feel like you’re just a parent in a sea of other parents who need help, and so when you’re able to talk to people and tell your specific story and have people listen, it empowers you.”
Please join the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health at www.1in5kids.org so that all families who struggle with the children’s mental health system can be similarly empowered.
- 12:34 pm - Thu, Apr 11, 2013
Destination Unknown: Navigating Virginia’s New Transportation Funding Package - and Potential Potholes
Low-income Virginians will pay a greater share of their income in new taxes than wealthier Virginians under the transportation funding legislation adopted by the General Assembly last week, according to a new, comprehensive analysis of the package from The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a non-profit, independent fiscal and economic policy organization based in Richmond.
Under the transportation funding package:
- Low-income people pay more. People earning less than $21,000 will pay three to six times more of their income in new taxes than people with incomes that top $509,000.
- In Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, low-income
households will pay between five and eight times more of
- Responsibility moves away from drivers. Most of the new revenue would come from activities unrelated to driving, dramatically shifting the responsibility for funding transportation away from those who use the highways the most.
-Statewide, less than 10 percent of the new tax revenue is
from driving-related sources, such as the gas tax.
-In Northern Virginia, the new regional taxes in the package
come entirely from sources unrelated to driving.
-In Hampton Roads, 64 percent of the new taxes come from
sources unrelated to driving.
- Virginia schools may not receive much new help. While the prospect of dedicated education funding was used to help pass the plan, whether it will actually result in any meaningful new funding for Virginia’s schools is unclear. Furthermore, while the share of sales tax revenue dedicated to education gets a one-time bump, the share diverted to transportation grows over time.
- 1:54 pm - Fri, Mar 29, 2013
Of Potholes and Donut Holes
(Updated 3:15 p.m. 3/29/13. We fixed an error in the table.)
Something missing from all the coverage of the governor’s transportation amendments caught our attention: the conditions under which the taxes in the transportation package are imposed through the Regional Planning Districts (RPD) aren’t uniform. They’re different depending on the particular tax. And, they set up an odd “donut hole” of sorts by which a growing region of Virginia may find that they soon fall in (and eventually out) of the particular hole, and thus are subject to (and then maybe exempt from) the different taxes.
Here’s how it breaks down:
So what do these new taxes and the criteria around them actually mean for Virginia’s 21 Planning Districts? Let’s use one of the regions that is affected by these changes as an example: Hampton Roads.
Currently, Hampton Roads, along with Northern Virginia, fits squarely within the criteria for the additional sales tax. Once a Regional Planning District hits the threshold levels of population, vehicle registrations, and transit ridership set up for that tax by the governor’s amendments, they are then subject to the additional 0.7 percent sales tax. The same is true for the regional congestion fee and the transient occupancy tax.
The additional gas tax is treated differently, however. Instead of simply establishing a threshold level, this tax provision has both upper and lower bound limits for the population, vehicles registered, and ridership criteria.
So Hampton Roads also fits within the criteria for the additional 2.1 percent wholesale tax on gas. But based on the upper bound limits placed on the three criteria for this tax provision, it will only be subject to this tax until its population hits 2 million OR vehicle registrations hit 1.7 million OR transit ridership hits 50 million. Once the region grows beyond any of those limits, the additional gas tax will vanish! Then once it grows beyond all three of those limits, it will suddenly be subject to the regional congestion fee and transient occupancy tax that currently only apply to Northern Virginia.
So in the governor’s efforts to avoid constitutionality concerns over how the regional taxes were imposed in the original legislation, his amendments create a sort of donut hole of tax policies that Virginia’s 21 Regional Planning Districts may fall into — or out of — in the future.
Something to chew on.
—Sara Okos, Policy Director