The 2019 session is nearing our halfway mark as crossover is tomorrow! The House is making progress on several key issues as we prepare to begin considering legislation passed by the Senate. Tomorrow is the last day for the House to act on its legislation. Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee released the House budget proposal, which amends the 2018-2020 biennial budget adopted last year. The full House will vote on the budget Thursday.
House Unveils 2018 – 2020 Proposed Biennial Budget
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee released its budget proposal; a conservative and balanced budget that does not rely on Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed tax increase. 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.
We continue to take a systematic approach to improving Virginia’s economy. Our budget provides funding for major economic development projects announced this year, as well as funding for the Tech Talent Pipeline to create 25,000 new computer science degrees over the next decade. The budget also increases funding for the Workforce Credential Grant Program to $12 million per year and increases funding for broadband by $24 million. Our budget includes $45 million to hold tuition levels flat at Virginia’s colleges and universities, a major commitment to make college more affordable. The budget also includes $5 million in new funding for Tuition Assistance Grants for students who attend Virginia’s private colleges and universities.
The House continues its commitment to strengthening the healthcare safety net by providing $8 million for STEP services and $8 million for increased nursing staff at Virginia’s behavioral health hospitals. The budget also includes new language to improve the Medicaid forecasting process to protect taxpayer dollars. Finally, the proposal includes $93 million for the Water Quality Improvement Fund, the largest commitment ever. We also include $1 million for oyster replenishment and restoration, another key investment in Virginia’s natural resource economy.
I am grateful to Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, my colleagues on the Committee, and the House Appropriations staff who all worked so hard to craft this responsible budget. I am also pleased that a number of my budget amendments were included in the proposed budget. You can learn more about those amendments here.
Teacher Pay Raises
Last Monday, I had the pleasure to announce on the House floor that a 5% teacher pay raise will be included in the House budget, which was released yesterday. As of 2018, the General Assembly has funded four teacher pay raises in the last six years. That’s a $138 million investment in our teachers since 2013. This raise will be done in a responsible manner that does not raise taxes.
In 2018, the budget included $98 million more than the governor originally proposed for K-12 education, but targeted the money to the classroom and provided local leaders flexibility. We fully-funded re-benchmarking, an increase of $480 million for local school systems. This is a sizable investment that will make sure Virginia’s public school systems are preparing our young people to go to college or get the training they need so they can find good-paying jobs. We must and will continue to do more for our teachers to let them know we fully support them!
House Bill 1611, which will make Prepaid529 tuition contracts more affordable, while ensuring the overall status of the fund remains actuarially sound, saving parents more than $3,000 on an 8-semester tuition contract, was reported from the House Appropriations Committee 22 to 0. House Bill 1615, which changes the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June was reported from the House Committee on Privileges and Elections 19 to 3. House Bill 2306, which directs the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to make referrals to any employment services organization that provides competitive or commensurate wages and is eligible to receive state-funded Long-Term Employment Support Services or Extended Employment Services was passed by the House of Delegates with a 99 to 0 vote. 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, including the factors that it expects will influence such rate and a projected range of the increase in such rate, was reported from the House Education Committee with a substitute 22 to 0. House Bill 2338, which requires students to earn one verified credit in Virginia and U.S. History, was reported from the House Appropriations Committee 21 to 0.
House Bill 2457, which creates a retiree license for any doctor of medicine, osteopathy, podiatry, or chiropractic who holds an unrestricted recent license to practice in Virginia, was reported from the House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions with a substitute, 22 to 0. This license would only allow these doctors to provide charity care or provide care to patients at home who cannot travel to receive care. House Bill 2662, which directs the Board of Education, in establishing high school graduation requirements, to require students to complete a senior capstone project, portfolio, performance-based assessment, or structured experiment that relates to a work-based learning, service-learning, or community engagement activity, passed the House 95 to 0. Finally, House Bill 2809, which extends the term of the mayor for the Town of Grottoes from two years to four years was reported from the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns 21 to 0.
Update on Interstate 81 Legislation
On Thursday, I presented a substitute version of House Bill 2718, my Interstate 81 Improvement legislation, to the House Committee on Transportation. House Bill 2718 starts the process to solve the challenges we face for the I-81 corridor. The substitute allows us to move forward, while ensuring all stakeholders have an opportunity to voice their concerns and provide input. As I have previously stated, I am open to any and all solutions to provide the funding necessary to improve I-81. HB 2718, establishes the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund, a long needed funding source dedicated to providing the resources necessary to address major improvements on I-81; the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program, which will allocate funds, include a financing plan to support the allocations, and will include a schedule for all new projects and strategies identified in a plan adopted by the Board; and the Interstate 81 Committee to identify the most pressing problems on I-81. This substitute lays solid foundation to begin the long overdue work to address I-81 improvements. The bill reported from the house Transportation Committee 22 to 0. You can read more about the bill here.
Fighting for tax relief
The House of Delegates is advancing a series of bills to stop Governor Ralph Northam’s hidden tax increase and ensure that all individual tax revenue from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is used to provide tax relief to middle class families. Last Monday, the House Finance Committee passed a package of legislation to guarantee $950 million in middle-class tax relief. This included tax relief legislation introduced by Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, and tax conformity legislation introduced by Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk.
House Bill 2355, sponsored by Chairman Jones, will immediately conform Virginia’s tax code to the federal tax code. This legislation will set aside all increased revenue from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into a special “Taxpayer Relief Fund” to ensure that this money is used to provide tax relief. House Bill 2529, sponsored by Delegate Higo, will stop Governor Ralph Northam’s hidden tax increase and provide tax relief to hardworking Virginians. The legislation will allow taxpayers to itemize their state taxes regardless of how they file their federal return, increase the state standard deduction across the board, and maintain the important state and local tax (SALT) deduction as it exists today.
Conforming Virginia’s tax code will allow taxpayers to begin filing their taxes immediately without any delays or confusion. Governor Northam proposes using the new revenue to finance approximately $2.2 billion in new spending. Our plan, on the other hand, will provide $575 million in tax relief immediately and set aside all other revenue collected from individuals, approximately $400 million, to be refunded to taxpayers.
Our plan protects a middle class family that itemizes from what could be roughly a $805 tax increase or providing an additional $115 in tax relief to a family that chooses the standard deduction. The House budget released yesterday does not spend one dime of the increased revenues from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Our plan sets aside all new revenue in the “Taxpayer Relief Fund” or into our state savings accounts. Do we want to give money back to taxpayers or spend it? My Republican colleagues and I believe you deserve more money back in your pocket.
Last week I had the chance to meet with Longwood University President Taylor Reveley; Scott McMurrain of Fishersville; Zachary Sheldon of the Nature Conservancy; Craig Shrewsbury of Fishersville; Christopher Newport University President Paul Trible; Larry Howdyshell, David Ferguson, Michael Hastings (pictured right) and Preston Knight of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative; Emily Griffith of Voices for Virginia’s Children; and Augusta County Board of Supervisors, Gerald Garber, Pam Carter, Michael Shull, Carolyn Bragg, and Wendell Coleman. I would also like to thank Pastor Shin Woo Hong of the New Hope United Methodist Church, who delivered the opening prayer for the House of Delegates on Wednesday.
My staff enjoyed visits from Rebecca Simmons with the Children's Advocacy Centers of Virginia; Tom Benzing of Waynesboro; Gail Brunk and members of VAIL; members of the Bridge Line; Tom and Peggy Sheets of Staunton; Rockingham County Supervisor Billy Kyger, Rockingham County Administrator Stephen King and Rockingham Count Assistant Administrator Casey Armstrong; Savanah Mendoza and Reid Davis of the Virginia Apartment Management Association; members of Rockingham County 4-H; and John Magruder of the Virginia Forestry Association.
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.