- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Delegate Lacey Putney, currently the longest serving legislator in Virginia history, is seeking another term. If reelected, the opening of the General Assembly in January will mark the 50th anniversary of the day that Putney first set foot in the House of Delegates. He was first elected in 1961.
Putney was born in Big Island. His father was section foreman for the C&O Railroad and Lacey Putney grew up in the section foreman’s house.
“Not long after we moved out of it, they put running water in it,” he commented.
Today, he is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Putney said that no one can remember a delegate from this part of the state ever being the chairman of that committee before.
The chairman of this committee determines which bills are heard and which ones are not heard, although a bill can be brought up if one-fifth of the committee’s members want it heard. There are 22 members on the committee.
When asked about important issues in a interview, Putney mentioned jobs. He said that it’s important for the state government to take actions that are likely to create jobs and that means keeping Virginia the number one state in which to do business. Keeping Virginia the best managed state, fiscally, is also critical. Putney recalled being asked by Governor Robert McDonnell to go with him late last year to meet with representatives of the three top bond rating agencies. Virginia got a AAA rating from all three. Putney said that only three other states share this distinction.
“No other state has a stronger bond rating than the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Putney said. “A lot of that is the result of pay-as-you-go from many, many years in the past.”
Putney expects budgeting to be challenging this year. He said that state revenue remains volatile, so there will be little in the way of new dollars to appropriate. Furthermore the General Assembly will have to make a large appropriation to the Virginia Retirement System in order to catch up. This all means that legislators are going to have to say no to many budget requests, Putney said, adding Virginia must have a budget that is both balanced and structurally sound. This means that legislators can’t do anything that will add to spending in the next budget cycle.
“It is not going to be a fun session,” Putney predicted.
One area that Putney would like to find more money for is transportation. He said he has no problem with using general fund money for this purpose as everybody benefits from a top notch transportation system. Besides, no matter how it’s designated, the money still comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. Putney said that the designation between general fund and special fund money is artificial— it’s just a matter of what legislators choose to call it.
One area of transportation that Putney would like to find more money for is secondary roads, noting that the 19th House District has many of these and traffic on them has increased dramatically in recent years.
“I think we need to completely reevaluate the secondary road funding formula,” he said.
Along with looking to the future, Putney also mentioned recent accomplishments, including legislation dealing with situations when a city reverts to a town status. When this happens, the county automatically picks up the former city’s local composite index (LCI) for 15 years. This is the formula that determines how much money a locality’s school division gets from the state. As a result, Bedford County Public Schools stands to receive an additional $4 million to $5 million from the state.
Putney also got $3.5 million for the city of Bedford to make a state mandated renovation of the dam at Stoney Creek Reservoir. Putney said that its questionable policy for the state to enter into that arena and his action set a precedent. However, State Senator Chuck Colgan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had made a similar request in his area.
He also pointed to legislation that he sponsored to set up for the first time an orderly, long-term process for capital improvements in the state.
Another area was opposition to electric rate increases. Putney said that legislators do not vote on electric rate increases; these are regulated by the State Corporation Commission. Anyone can provide input to this commission on the subject and Putney said he filed his opposition to the rate hikes.
During this term, Putney worked with Gov. McDonnell to speed up the process of issuing state bonds for transportation projects. He said that the bonds were approved with bipartisan support in 2007 while Tim Kaine was governor. Issuing the bonds was accelerated to take advantage of a time when construction costs are low because contractors are looking for work.