Legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Jim Webb that provides a tax credit for communities to partner with the private sector to fix up old school buildings won immediate praise from prominent Virginia politicians across the political spectrum on Wednesday.
In addition to promoting greater leverage of the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, the Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act would also require the Secretary of the Treasury to report to Congress on the effects of the law.
“The need to rehabilitate our nation’s historic schools is something that brings leaders from both parties together, drives revitalization in some of our most economically vulnerable neighborhoods, and will provide our students access to safe, modern schools,” said Mr. Webb. “I’m pleased to have the support of Governor McDonnell and Majority Leader [Eric] Cantor for this important legislation to rebuild our ailing schools.”
Mr. Warner called it a “win-win-win,” arguing it would put people back to work, engage private capital and result in safer schools.
“They say we’ve run out of common ground in this nation,” added Mr. McDonnell. “This bill demonstrates just how mistaken that belief is.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave public school facilities a “D” in its 2009 Report Card for America’s infrastructure, noting that there is “ample evidence that local communities are struggling” to meet their responsibility for school infrastructure.
Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, said that the proposal has “significant promise” for future students in Virginia, noting that many older buildings that will qualify are in inner-city and poor areas where support is most need.
And U.S. Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen got into the act as well.
Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, noted that the approach mirrored his move as mayor of Richmond to refurbish and reopen Maggie L. Walker High School.
“The Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act is the right bill at the right time,” said Mr. Kaine. “As Virginia has shown, investments in education pay dividends. A commitment to quality infrastructure and quality education transformed Virginia from a low-achievement, low-income state at the beginning of the 20th century to the high-achievement, high-income state we are today. This same commitment is needed at the national level to ensure global competitiveness.”
And Mr. Allen, a Republican, noted that he’s advocated the approach for several years now with an odd bedfellow — Paul Goldman, former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
“I have long-advocated for amending the historic rehabilitation tax credit to help rebuild and improve America’s needy school buildings, and I heartily approve the efforts of Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner for taking this legislative action to achieve this worthy goal,” Mr. Allen said. “This initiative will free up billions of dollars for local communities to use in modernization and renovations without raising taxes or adding to the national debt.”