Congressmen Dave Brat and Rob Wittman with Delegate Mark Cole
It is my honor to represent the citizens of the 88th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. The House of Delegates is one half of the Virginia General Assembly, the other half being the Virginia Senate. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about legislation or issues before the General Assembly. If you would like to visit the Capitol in Richmond, please call my office so that we may set-up a tour and assist with your visit. I look forward to hearing from you!
The General Assembly session began on January 9th and is scheduled to run through February 23rd. This is the short session and is scheduled to run for 45 days. 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly. They first convened in 1619 as the House of Burgesses and have been meeting regularly ever since. If you would like to come down for a visit during session, please let me know and I would be happy to schedule a tour.
January 12, 2019
The General Assembly convened in session last Wednesday, January 9th. This is the short session and is scheduled to run for 45 days. 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly. They first convened in 1619 as the House of Burgesses and have been meeting regularly ever since.
Things move very quickly during session, especially during the short session. We will have to deal with thousands of pieces of legislation and budget amendments in just a few weeks. If you would like to come down for a visit during session, please let me know and I would be happy to schedule a tour.
STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH
As is tradition Governor Northam gave his state of the Commonwealth speech addressing the members of the General Assembly during a joint session last Wednesday night as well. This is where the Governor lays out his legislative agenda for the session.
This years speech was delivered with a slightly less partisan tone than last year. We oppose some of the ideas and proposals he talked about, but there may also some areas where we can find common ground.
One of the Governors priorities is a $1.2 Billion middle-class tax increase built into the his budget. I believe we should prioritize tax relief instead of increased spending. The contrast is clear: the governor wants to collect higher taxes to spend it, instead I want to leave that money in the pockets of hard-working Virginians.
House Leadership put forward a tax relief proposal to allow people to keep their itemized deductions regardless of how they file their federal taxes and increase the standard deduction. For a family that takes the standard deduction, we would provide $115 in tax relief. For a family that itemizes, we would prevent a tax increase as high as $800 or more, depending on how much they make.
Another area where I am concerned about the direction of the governor is on public safety. He mentioned in his speech tonight that Virginias recidivism rate was one of the lowest in the country, just before proposing big changes in criminal law. This fits an emerging pattern that suggests Democrats are going to seek fundamental changes to a criminal justice system that has made Virginia one of the safest states in the nation.
We may be able to find common ground on issues like economic development, the tech-talent pipeline, and higher education affordability. Speaker Cox has laid out a vision to bring the state, our colleges and universities, and the business community together to promote internships in high-demand fields, make college more affordable, and align curriculum to the needs of our economy.
We are also prioritizing two-dozen recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety. House Leadership has led the effort this year to find innovative ways to keep our children safe. We are hopeful that we can find common ground with the governor on that.
We have also talked about improving healthcare affordability. We have innovative ideas to empower consumers, create more health insurance options, and lower barriers to competition in healthcare. We hope the governor will work with us on those proposals this year.
December 28, 2018
The next General Assembly session is scheduled to start on January 9th. One of the pre-session activities is the submission of the Governor’s Budget proposal in December. Last week Governor Northam presented his proposed budget amendments to the two-year budget to the joint House and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees. The General Assembly will consider what the governor has offered as we set out to craft our own amendments to the two-year budget.
Unfortunately, the governor's budget is based on allowing over 600,000 middle-class taxpayers to pay higher taxes. The budget assumes $1.2 Billion in higher taxes that the General Assembly has not approved. I cannot support a budget with billions in new spending, on the backs of the middle-class families who are struggling to make ends meet.
The governor has proposed $2.2 Billion in total new spending, including $1.6 Billion in recurring spending. In fact, the governor is proposing more new spending in the second year of the budget than was included in the entire two-year budget originally passed last session. While my colleagues in the House and I are eager work with the governor on areas of agreement, I am wary of the long-term and recurring nature of the commitments he is proposing.
Some of this spending, like proposed additional investments in K-12 education, are worth discussing. But in other cases, the governor is proposing installment plans on multi-million proposals that extend long after his term is over. It’s highly unusual to see this level of spending proposed in the middle of the two-year cycle. While we must always be looking toward the future, we cannot make promises that we cannot afford.
The need for caution is especially true given the status of our bond rating and that many economists foresee an economic slowdown in the not-too-distant future. A recent report from Old Dominion University says that Virginia is still too reliant on federal spending. We must diversify our economy and begin preparing now for the next recession.
Just six months ago, the rating agencies applauded our fiscally-responsible approach to budgeting. Our AAA bond rating was reaffirmed because we committed $1 billion to two state savings accounts; this was a prudent and responsible step.
Despite boasting about his commitment to increase the size of the Cash Reserve Fund to guard against either an economic downturn or a hedge against unanticipated costs, the governor proposes to deposit addition dollars into the fund and then simultaneously directs the fund to pay known obligations potentially totaling over $200 million dollars.
It was never the intent that the fund be used to pay for known economic development incentive grants or repay the federal government for disallowed Medicaid cost. We need to be more transparent on our commitment to fiscal responsibility and not play a shell game with our reserve funds.
Ultimately, I will work to craft a conservative, responsible budget. We will make investments where we need to, but we will also work to protect taxpayers and our state AAA bond rating.