Today the 2019 General Assembly session begins its final week! It has been an honor to once again serve you in the Virginia House of Delegates. Although this is our last week, we still have much to do. We have hundreds of bills to vote on and send to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk and we are making final adjustments to the budget.
Completing work on the Budget
The House and Senate advanced similar budget proposals last week that work in tandem with the tax relief plan. The House budget eliminated all spending based on the tax increase proposed by Governor Northam. The House budget identified $120 million in healthcare savings and made a major commitment to reducing unfunded liabilities, eliminating over $700 million in spending over the next 25 years. The budget builds on our multi-year efforts to responsibly invest in a stronger economy, provide more funding and flexibility to local schools, and make college more affordable.
In K-12 education, the budget provides $155 million in increased funding, includes funding for a five percent teacher pay raise, and returns 45% of lottery money to local schools with no strings attached. School Safety has been a top priority for the House this year and the budget includes $12 million in school safety initiatives, including more funding for school security equipment, School Resource Officers, and other innovative solutions that will help keep our kids safe in schools.
The House and Senate continue to negotiate the final terms of the budget. As a House budget conferee, I have been working diligently with conferees from both the House and Senate. I look forward to supporting a final budget that is conservative and limits the size of Government.
House and Senate Overwhelmingly Approve $1 Billion Tax Relief Package
We are very pleased Governor Northam signed the House and Senate tax relief package on Friday. Thanks to Republicans in the House and Senate, you will be protected from the Democrats' middle class tax increase, and come October you will also receive a rebate check in the mail. This is in addition to any tax refund you will be receiving here in the next few months. Tax relief for the middle class was a major priority of House Republicans this year and I am proud that we were able to pass this legislation this year.
The legislation will provide $420 million to Virginia taxpayers later this year, in the form of tax rebates of $110 for individual filers and $220 for married couples. It raises the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, the first such change for individual filers since 1989. The bill also maintains the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and includes key provisions for job creating businesses.
In total, the legislation will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are placed in the state’s cash reserve fund. The legislation also conforms Virginia tax law to the federal law, ensuring Virginians will be able to file their state taxes without complications this May.
I am proud to have voted to support this legislation. You sent me to Richmond to fight for lower taxes and to put more money back in your pocket. It has been a very successful session in that regard. I strongly urge Governor Northam to sign this legislation next week.
Updates on My Legislation
HB 1657; creating an annual mixed beverage performing arts facility license, House Bill 1729; ensuring our school counselors spend at least 80 percent of their staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling; and House Bill 2809 have passed both the House and Senate, and are before Governor Northam for his consideration. House Bill 1611, making Prepaid529 contracts more affordable passed the Senate with a substitute, 40 to 0; House Bill 2306, which deals with long-term employment support services passed the Senate with amendments 40 to 0; House Bill 2337, which requires the governing board of each public institution of higher education to provide and discuss certain information relating to the rate of undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees at meetings preceding the meeting at which it sets such rate passed the Senate with a substitute 39 to 0; House Bill 2457, relating to charity care was reported from the Senate Committee on Education and Health with amendments 15 to 0; and finally, House Bill 2718, addressing improvements to the Interstate 81 corridor, passed the Senate with a substitute 35 to 4 and is now in Conference.
Honoring Congressman Goodlatte
Last Tuesday, I had the honor of presenting former Congressman Robert “Bob” W. Goodlatte House Joint Resolution 743, commending him on his retirement following 26 years of public service as the Congressman representing Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, during a Center Aisle Presentation on the Floor of the House in the Chamber. A champion of fiscal conservatism and ardent proponent of a Balanced Budget Amendment, Bob’s work in Congress enriched our agricultural community, enhanced transportation, provided consumer protections in the field of technology, and made lasting contributions to our civil justice reform to name just a few of his remarkable accomplishments. I had the distinct pleasure of serving as District Director, and then as a District Representative for Congressman Goodlatte. I can attest firsthand to his character, work ethic, and unwavering commitment to his constituents, the Commonwealth and our country.
We also welcomed a multitude of Congressman Goodlatte’s former staff members from the Congressman’s Washington office and Virginia district offices, as well as former campaign staff, who viewed the presentation from the House gallery. Bob was the epitome of a servant-leader, who represented the Commonwealth with the utmost integrity and dedication, engendering the respect of his constituents and colleagues and the loyalty of his staff. House Joint Resolution 743 may be viewed at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?191+ful+HJ743.
Working on bills and the budget kept us extremely busy last week, but I did have time to meet with Radford University President Brian Hemphill and David Blount of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District.
My staff enjoyed meeting with Major General Randall D. Fullhart, the Commandant of Cadets at Virginia Tech; Rita and Ronna Wertman of Grottoes; John Nafzinger, Sandra Vytlacil, and members of the Jefferson Area CHIP; and Jackie Llamas and members of Hand in Hand and Healthy Families of the Blue Ridge.
In Case You Missed It
As always, my Legislative Director, Judy Wyatt, Communications Director, Will Wrobleski, and I are here to serve you. If you need help with a state government agency or issue, we can be reached by phone at 804.698.1025 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our address is Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23219. For scheduling requests, please contact my Administrative Assistant Pam Stump in my Richmond office.
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Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.