Only Democratic legislator from Virginia's western half shares priorities for 2024
Sam Rasoul was first elected to the state’s legislature in 2014, and when he comes to Richmond next month, he’ll once again be the sole Democratic representative from the state’s rural, western half. He told Radio IQ that means he’ll put the needs of his constituents, and those nearby who may not have voted for him, front and center.
Among initiatives he’s supporting is a bill which will give all localities the ability to raise sales taxes for school construction. A few counties have been given such authority in the past, but he hopes to see it expanded this year.
“While this is a short-term band aid to have parity across the board, we certainly want to think about our school construction needs as we proceed,” Rasoul told Radio IQ.
The delegate’s interest in schools will go beyond construction funding; he was announced as chair of the House Education committee which will give him unique control over what’s heard in the chamber this winter. Among his priorities are increasing teacher pay in line with the national average, as well as additional funds to support pandemic-era, publicly funded early childhood care.
“That way parents can go to work, and it helps the kids prepare for school,” he said.
He’ll also join a growing chorus of bipartisan officials looking to address what many have called the state’s out-of-date funding system for Virginia's schools. He said the existing system failed to address education equity in different parts of the state.
“There’s clearly a tax base difference in Arlington vs. Wise County,” he said. “We — as a Commonwealth — need to be thinking about education equity and know that it's our obligation in Roanoke to think about those kids in Arlington and Wise County.”
Rasoul also hopes bread and butter issues in the region, like continued improvements on I-81, are addressed, but he’s hoping to see rural roads get upgraded as well.
“We have many hundreds of miles of road that aren’t paved, that many of these counties would like to get more support for,” he said.
Rasoul will join his elected GOP neighbors when the legislature returns to Richmond January 10th.