Peake speaks at chamber

Published 7:20 pm Thursday, November 15, 2018

Some of the topics that most affect residents, such as taxes and health care, were under discussion led by State Sen. Mark Peake during the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting held Monday at The Woodland.

Peake said in a phone interview Wednesday that the discussion was based on topics expected to be explored come the short session in January.

“We already have the two-year budget,” Peake said. “So what we do in this session is make adjustments to the budget.”

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Peake represents Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland counties.

He said that during the chamber meeting he discussed actions he took to support area organizations, and said he carried bills to address promoting vocational training and solve teacher shortage issues.

Information provided by the chamber cited that L. Rucker Snead, from Hampden-Sydney College, asked Peake what the General Assembly is doing to address workforce. Senator Peake, according to the chamber, discussed vocational programs being offered due to the changes brought about with last year’s work.

Peake, according to the chamber, also talked about the importance of partnering with Community or Junior Colleges and establishing certifications for programs like welding, nuclear welding, truck driving or electricians.

The discussion during the chamber meeting included sales tax in Virginia.

Peake, in the phone interview, spoke about the Supreme Court’s recent South Dakota v. Wayfair decision, which grants states the ability to have online companies collect sales tax on internet sales, even though the internet companies may not have a physical presence in Virginia. Peake said that while Supreme Court decision is anticipated to create an additional $250 million of revenue, he said the burden of the cost could potentially fall on taxpayers.

“There is no windfall,” Peake said. “It’s money coming out of the taxpayers’ pocket.”

Peake said he is exploring a proposal in response to the internet sales tax that would reduce the general sales tax by 2/10s of a percent, from 5.3 percent to 5.1, which would be projected to yield a similar $250 million amount. He said this proposal would apply to sales at both physical and internet companies. This proposal, he said, would be revenue-neutral, meaning that it could potentially prevent residents from seeing a tax increase.

Peake also cited a recent federal tax law change that reportedly changed itemization of taxes and increased personal exemption tax. He said typically Virginia conforms to federal tax rate, but said this change could potentially result in middle-class taxpayers paying an additional approximately $500 million in taxes. He said he would look at other ways to adjust state income tax levels.

He and a news release from the chamber said most of the questions asked by participants during the luncheon focused on health care.

Peake said the governor’s office advised state officials that the actual cost for Medicaid is $470 million higher than budget last year. He said the figures are unrelated to the Medicaid expansion that was recently voted to take place.

“That means we’ve got a $470-million hole in the budget,” Peake said. “We’re going to have to address that.”