Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are at the crossover mark of the Virginia General Assembly where House and Senate bills and their respective budgets are heard, voted on, approved or disapproved and then sent on to the Governor for writing it into law.
At the start of session, I was chosen by the House and Senate leadership to give the Republican Response to the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth along with Senator Siobhan Dunnavant where we focused producing a balanced budget, prioritizing spending on core services, restoring our economy, and reducing the size of government. Some of the other issues that we highlighted included ensuring that the healthcare safety net remains, ensuring that our public safety officials have the resources they need to keep our communities safe, and investing more in K-12 Education and Higher Education.
Budget: In December of last year, Governor McAuliffe that 2016-2018 biennial budget faced a $1 billion shortfall. Since the Governor’s presentation, our House Appropriations Committee conducted 5 public hearings across the state to receive input from our citizens on the priorities they would like to see addressed. I also received input from constituents via my survey (input survey link here) and from emails, correspondence, and telephone calls.This past Thursday, the House and Senate voted on their version of the budget. The House budget reflects the tough choices we had to make.
State Employees and State Troopers: Our budget invests resources to make a compensation package for state employees and law enforcement a reality. All told, the cost for the 3% raise for state employees and college faculty, and restoring the 2% pay raise for state supported employees was $88.7 million. Funding is also included to provide our Deputy Sheriffs with their compression pay adjustments. Finally, an additional $15 million is included to address the starting salaries and compression of our State Troopers and Capitol Police Officers.
K-12 Education: Last year the House re-established the policy of sending back a portion of the Lottery proceeds to our school divisions on a per-pupil basis without a required local match. This year the House budget sends 40%, or $218.7 million, in Lottery Profits directly back to our school divisions. The schools get much needed flexibility in allocating these dollars where they think it is best served, be it a pay raise for their teachers or funding their share of getting to 100% of the required VRS contribution rate.
Higher Education: Access and affordability in higher education has been a top priority of the House for years. Last session we made a significant additional investment in higher education. However, because of the shortfall cuts of nearly $80 million were announced by the Governor. The House budget restores $21.0 million to Higher Education to reduce cuts so that no school had a reduction greater than 1.4% of their budget.
Health and Human Resources: The House, working collaboratively with the Senate and the Governor, have made significant investments in the area of mental health. The House will provide a $28.5 million increase in mental health services, to include expanding the GAP program to cover individuals up to 100% of the federal poverty level. We will also provide funding for supportive housing and same day access. Our budget recommendations will add an additional 144 DD waiver slots to meet the needs of Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens.
Cyber Security: This week here in Richmond a new partnership between Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College was announced in developing Virginia’s Cyber Security Workforce. I have been working with the industry, academia, and the workforce to help develop the vital pipeline for Cyber/IT positions along with both the President of ODU John Broderick and TCC Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani and their teams. This is a huge step for the university and college working together to train a new cyber security curriculum here in the Commonwealth. This new initiative will make it easier to fill the many cyber security positions currently available in our great state. Now students will be able to receive a two-year associates degree and certification and move directly into the cyber security workforce.
TCC-ODU Cyber Security Articulation Agreement
Jobs: We recognize that creating good paying jobs remains a top priority. The House passed legislation to prohibit local governments from adopting ordinance setting the minimum wage higher than the state government. We also passed legislation protecting small business owners that operate franchises from being forced to unionize their employees. A major cornerstone of the House job growth agenda in 2016 legislation that established the Growth & Opportunity Board, the centerpiece of “GO Virginia”. This legislation suffered major cuts by the Governor. However, the House budget restored $7.5 million to continue this initiative that will foster job growth. GO Virginia is a business-driven initiative facilitates greater collaboration between the business community, higher education and local governments. By aligning the needs of the three segments, we will encourage the creation of good paying jobs in high demand fields, and make economic development dollars go further.
Session Shout out: I have enjoyed meeting with a number of constituent groups this week, including Titan America, Equality Virginia, Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley, NASA, Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Versability Resources group, Peta, students from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Students from Radford University, along with The President of Old Dominion University John Broderick, The New President of Radford University Brian Hemphill, and lastly the President of Virginia Tech Tim Sands . A big thank you to all who have taken the time to call, write, and come by my office to share their needs and opinions with me.
Ambassadors of the Filipino American Community in the House Gallery.
The Virginia State Capital on this beautiful Friday afternoon.
Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at any time for your insight and feedback on proposed legislation. Your thoughts and opinions are important to me, and enable me to better represent you. For the duration of legislative session, I can be found in Room 503 of the General Assembly Building. As always, I can be reached at (804) 698-1021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.