Weather continued to dictate actions of the General Assembly when tornadoes ripped through the Commonwealth last week. In addition to loss of life, injury and property, the unprecedented twisters in February forced committees to come to a halt as citizens and legislators took shelter at the Capitol. Not sure what else we can expect in this unusual Session previously closed for record-breaking snowstorms.
All eyes turned to the work of the Senate Finance Committee this past week as it unveiled and adopted its version of amendments to the introduced budget. Once again the expansion of Medicaid was not included in the House or Senate amendments. As a result of turning down federal funds for Medicaid Expansion, we are forced to spend $157 million of General Fund money for indigent care. At least $50 million of that money could have been used for Public Education and $15 million for Higher Education. However, we have worked on a number of other needed measures in education, economic development, and infrastructure, resulting in a balanced budget. I will be a budget conferee as the House and Senate meet to hammer out differences. Click here
to view the budget amendments proposed in SB29 and SB30.
One large change to the Governor’s proposed budget regarded the 2% pay raise for state employees. In the introduced budget, the pay raise would not take effect until July 2017, however the Senate has moved the date up to December of this year, meaning our state employees would receive the pay increase they deserve sooner than anticipated.
Governor McAuliffe signs a bill prohibiting persons subject to permanent protective orders from carrying guns
(Photo courtesy Governor's Office)
Highlighting public education, funding for preschools, governor’s schools, and technical education, including increased funding for STEM, have all made it in the Senate proposed budget. Due to the recent record-setting Powerball, there is an estimated additional $20.3 million in projected lottery proceeds going towards education. Additionally, funding for higher education included increased financial aid, support for students to have greater access to college and to complete their degree on time as well as new funding for workforce and veterans development.
A major initiative to grow and diversify the economy came with the passage of GO Virginia (SB449
), an initiative for economic growth using collaboration between the regional governments, businesses, and education. This will allow local governments to propose projects that business leaders and the state can advise on to help build the economy. Other economic development incentives include the Virginia Business Ready Sites pilot program, and the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund. There has been a recent influx of movies and TV shows coming to Virginia to film, such as TURN
on AMC and Mercy Street
The Senate commended Miss Virginia 2015 - Savannah Morgan Lane
(Photo courtesy Senate of Virginia)
In infrastructure, we have included the funding for I-66 development. With some of the worst congestion in the nation in our area, the widening of the eastbound lane and the additional revenue coming from adding a toll for single riders will increase the amount of funding going towards public transportation, such as WMATA, commuter buses, and vanpools. Also in public transportation, the budget would provide up to $3 million to address operating shortfalls in Northern Virginia transit agencies that resulted from the declining fuels tax revenues. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will also receive funds to lower enplanement costs and bring more foot traffic into Dulles Airport.
If you would like to view the rest of the budget or get more specifics on how the funding is allocated to each area, please visit the Senate Finance Committee website here
. There are links to explore the budget in more depth.
Tuesday, March 1
, otherwise known as “Super Tuesday
,” is the day to get out and vote in the presidential primary in Virginia. The deadlines to register to vote or to obtain an absentee ballot by mail for this election have passed. For more information on the process or where to vote, please check out the Virginia Department of Elections website here