Session Update, Week Five

March 25, 2015

I hope you and your family made it safely through the winter weather last evening. I encourage you to remain vigilant while driving, given the low temperatures expected throughout the week. The frigid temperatures will create prime conditions for black ice and slick roads.

Despite the snow, we are continuing on with our necessary business as we quickly approach the end of session. Last week was crossover, the point at which only Senate bills can be considered in the House, and House bills can only be heard in the Senate. The full membership of each chamber also took up their respective budget bill this past Thursday. I want to take a moment to discuss the budget that passed out of the House.

A Conservative Budget

Virginia families make tough choices to balance their budgets each year. They have the right to expect the same of their state government, and I believe the House budget proposal does just that.

The budget we passed on Thursday is conservative, responsible, and, as constitutionally required, balanced. General fund spending is down $1.1 billion from just last year. We set aside $99.5 million for the rainy day fund to guard against future tax increases, eliminated $42.5 million in debt and $10.2 million in fees that the Governor included in his original budget proposal. In addition, the budget dials back the Governor’s original proposal to broaden the accelerated sales tax program. As I have said before, this program is nothing more than an accounting gimmick, and I’m glad this budget sought to eliminate this burden on more businesses in the Commonwealth.

At the same time, we are using the resources from a modest increase in revenue to make targeted investments in K-12, provide our state employees and state supported local employees with a modest pay increase, and strengthen our safety net for those in the most need.

It’s worth noting that I also supported budget related legislation this session to prevent state agencies from spending beyond their means with IOUs that haven’t been approved by the General Assembly. We have a responsibility to make sure that your tax dollars are spent wisely, and the House of Delegates this year once again has served as check on runaway government spending.

Education Budget Highlights

The House budget includes $55 million in state funding for a 1.5 percent teacher pay raise, as well as $1.1 million in state funding to support teacher, principal and school board members’ professional development. In addition, the budget directs $190 million to the VRS teacher retirement account. While helping to reduce the unfunded liability in the account, this will also help reduce local school divisions share of the VRS costs.

Virginia has some of the top colleges and universities in the country, but costs have been increasing and too many Virginia students find themselves on waitlists or unable to attend our best schools. We worked to address both of those issues in the budget by targeting funds to open up new enrollment slots and providing additional funding to make it more affordable to transfer from Community College to a four year institution. These provisions, combined with other legislative efforts, such as the legislation to cap student athletic fees, can hopefully work to make a college degree more affordable and attainable for Virginia students.


I’m in Richmond right now to serve you, my constituents, and represent your interests in the general assembly. It’s a responsibility that I take seriously. Lawmakers are not entitled to the public trust, it must be earned.

Over the last two years, that trust has been shaken in Virginia. That’s why I supported additional reforms that will continue to strengthen our ethics laws. The most significant change includes a $100 cap on gifts. In addition, the General Assembly has adopted provisions to bolster Virginia’s independent ethics advisory panel. Last year, the House passed legislation that also prohibits the governor from accepting campaign contributions from companies knowingly seeking grants from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed that legislation. The House has included it again in this year’s ethics reform package, because the public deserves confidence that their tax dollars are being spent on core government functions, not political considerations.

Last week I had the privilege to meet with Janita McNemar with the Shenandoah Initiative for Adult Education. I also had a great visit with a large group of our local realtors. Joyce Krech, representing the Small Business Development Center in Harrisonburg, stopped by to discuss several exciting new initiatives that they will be working on in the coming year. It was great to see several local cub scouts that made the trip to Richmond to learn more about the legislative process. Finally, while I was in session, Chad was able to speak with Josh Huffman. Josh made the trip with Americans for Prosperity.