Last week was “hump day” at the General Assembly, also known as Crossover. That is the day that the House must complete all work on House legislation and send those that passed to the state Senate for their consideration. The Senate does the same with their legislation and sends it over to the House.
This week the House passed amendments to the two-year budget in order to eliminate all spending based on the higher taxes proposed by Governor Northam. Also included is additional investments in public education, school safety, and higher education. During the budget debate, we saw a fundamental difference between House Republicans and House Democrats: Democrats preferred to raise taxes and spend excess revenues in order to increase the size of government and welfare programs, while Republicans asserted that money should be returned to the taxpayers.
Following are budget highlights that may be of interest to you:
Healthcare savings: the budget identifies $120 million in healthcare savings, strengthens taxpayer protections in the Medicaid forecasting process, eliminates unfunded liabilities and saves $729 million in state spending in coming years.
K-12 education: the budget provides $155 million in increased funding, includes funding for a 5% teacher pay raise, and returns 45% of lottery money to local schools with no strings attached.
School safety: the budget includes a record investment of nearly $19 million. The budget doubles the funding for School Security Grant funding to $12 million and increases the award cap to $200,000 per grant application, increases funding for School Resource Officers by $3 million, and provides funding for school safety training at Virginia schools ($1.3 million).
Higher Education: our budget prioritizes higher education affordability by including $45 million to incentivize colleges and universities to hold tuition flat at 2019 levels.
The House budget proposal represents a commonsense approach to funding priorities. While I do not agree with every item included in the budget, I think the funding levels are reasonable, especially when considering that we had to remove funds based on the tax increase that the Governor proposed spending.
On Friday, we agreed to a nearly $1 billion tax relief package, the second largest tax cut in Virginia history!
The legislation will provide $420 million in tax refunds to Virginia taxpayers in October of 2019, increase the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, maintain the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and include key business tax provisions for Virginia’s largest job creators. This is a simple and direct tax cut package that will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief for hardworking Virginians.
Below is the status of some of the legislation I sponsored or co-sponsored that have passed the House and been sent to the Senate for their consideration.
HJ 581 Interstate 95 Corridor Improvement Plan; tasks the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to develop a strategic plan to improve I-95 between Thornburg and the Springfield Interchange. Currently, the CTB and VDOT have no plans to make significant improvements along the entire corridor. They only have plans to make spot improvements at certain interchanges.
HJ 591 Constitutional amendment that authorizes the General Assembly to make technical adjustments to districts to reduce the number of split precincts. Split precincts cause confusion among voters and elections officials, as well as increasing the costs of conducting elections.
HJ 615 Constitutional amendment that requires the establishment of state and local independent redistricting commissions to draw districts during the next redistricting in 2021.
HB 1614 Allows localities to establish a grant fund to help fix stormwater management systems that are failing and impacting neighborhoods.
HB 1617 Prohibits personal use of campaign funds. This has passed the House before but has yet to make it through the Senate.
HB 1620 Reforms the State Board of Elections and the Department of Elections to reduce partisan political influence.
HB 1623 Would make enrolling in school easier for military families relocating to the Commonwealth.
HB 1656 Allows private or religious schools to hire former law enforcement officers as armed security officers. This is something that public schools have been able to do for the last few years.
HB 1734 Requires the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety to develop a case management tool for use by public elementary and secondary school threat assessment teams to help identify potential threats to school safety and areas school security can be improved.
HB 2270 Requires that the sheriff, jail superintendent, or other official in charge of a local correctional facility or a regional jail in which an alien is incarcerated to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the release of the alien as soon as the release date is known.
HB 2278 Automatically expunges conviction records of someone who was given an absolute pardon because they were found to be innocent. Currently, someone who has been found to have been wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit must hire a lawyer and petition the court to expunge their record.
HB 2529 Repeals the unintended state income tax increase caused by the Federal income tax cuts (see the summary on tax relief above).
HB 2694 Allows HOAs to send notices by e-mail instead of physical mail, reducing the costs for notification.