VIRGINIA’S BUDGET WAR

What follows are excerpts from several emails written by members of the Virginia House of Delegates to their constituents. These were published last week after the General Assembly passed a budget.

From RICHARD L. ANDERSON, Delegate, 51st House District.  Sent: Fri 6/13/2014 3:05 PM

anderson

WE HAVE A BUDGET!

I arrived home at 3am this morning after the General Assembly passed a responsible and cautious budget at midnight last night. The bill passed the House 69-31 and the Senate 21-18, an almost 2-to-1 margin across both houses.

Key:  Our spending plan for the next two years increases funding for selected programs that are critical for our people, funds most other programs at the same amount as the prior two-year budget (i.e., few cuts), addresses our state’s $1.5 billion revenue shortfall forecasted over the next two years, and defers Medicaid decisions until after the legislature has completed its work on Medicaid.

To ensure that the General Assembly retains its rightful role regarding Medicaid decisions, both houses approved an added clarifying section that unequivocally prohibits the expansion of Medicaid without the direct approval of the legislature.

This budget closes the $1.5 billion revenue shortfall by also using some of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Unfortunately, we had to eliminate teacher pay raises and new funding for higher education. I strongly supported teacher compensation increases and am disappointed by this turn of events, but depressed revenues meant that the money is simply not there.

On the other hand, we protected over $300 million in new classroom funding for K-12 education, $50 million in new funding for mental health reforms, and investments in our state employee retirement system.

For a very detailed look at what the budget does and does not include, visit the House Appropriations Committee website by clicking here.

The budget is now enroute to the Governor for his consideration and action. I am hopeful that he will sign the budget with minimal changes so that our Commonwealth is not moved closer to a shutdown and/or interruption of services to our people.

From Jackson H. Miller, Majority Whip, 50th House District. Sent: Fri 6/13/2014 7:58 AM

JacksonMiller

Budget Passes

I am pleased to announce that last night, after a three-month impasse, both the House of Delegates and Senate passed a responsible budget on a bi-partisan vote. Passing this budget guarantees paychecks for our teachers, police officers, firefighters and includes funding for 14,000 more in-state slots at Virginia’s public colleges and universities.  What this budget does not include is further expansion of Obamacare in Virginia.  While the Virginia General Assembly has had to deal with a significant shortfall, the budget we passed will allow us to preserve our investments in the core functions of government – education, transportation, and public safety.

From Scott Lingamfelter, Delegate, 31st House District. Sent: Fri 6/13/2014 12:04 PM

Lingamfelter

Stand Firm with Scott

We stood firm!  We listened to you! We are accountable to the people we serve! That is why we have a budget in Virginia at last; a budget that is fiscally sound and does not expand Obamacare.

This week, Virginians saw firsthand what happens to politicians when voters feel their elected leaders are out of touch with their issues, their thinking, and their expectation for good governance.  The lesson is clear: in order to lead, you have to listen.  Once you listen, you have to take action to help create the right policies that protect our constitutional rights, the vitality of families, and the prosperity of small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.

As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, I take my role very seriously. I have an obligation to the people I serve.  That means I take the tough positions-which aren’t always popular with some people-but that’s the price of leadership.  There are people who want to expand Obamacare in Virginia; I get it, but I also get this: We have a $17.5 trillion national debt and we borrow $430 million per HOUR at the federal level. Obamacare expansion in Virginia would put a huge hole in Virginia’s budget going forward. This hole would inevitably result in cuts in education, law enforcement, higher education, and other core functions of state government.  Many people, including myself, very badly want real healthcare reform.  What has been delivered to us by the Obama administration-a huge federal program forced down our throats-is not the right approach. It is time for Congress to take a clean sheet of paper toward healthcare reform, and the first step is to repeal Obamacare and put in place legitimate reform… not big government.

From Rob Bell, Delegate, 58th House District. Sent: Fri 6/13/2014 1:32 AM

rob bell

Budget Passes — WITHOUT Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

It took until late on June 13, but tonight the House and Senate both endorsed a state budget — and one without the proposed Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

The bill passed the Senate 21-18 and the House 69-31.  Click for the votes of your Delegate and Senator.  Both bodies also endorsed an amendment to add safeguards against the Governor expanding Medicaid without legislative approval.

I opposed the proposed Medicaid expansion because spending on the program is already unsustainable.  Even without the proposed expansion, Virginia will pay $600 million more in Medicaid benefits in this biennial budget.  The proposed expansion would have accelerated this spending, and by adding thousands of recipients, it would have made it that much harder to reform the program.

The budget has now been sent to Governor McAuliffe, and we anticipate his actions next week.

These guys run every two years, and they will be running again in 2015. So please do as Bell suggests. Find out how your Delegate (and your Senator to) voted, and let him or her know what you think.

DELEGATE JACKSON MILLER REPORTS ON VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH’S BUDGET

Here is Delegate Jackson Miller‘s report on the General Assembly.

2012 Session Update: Budget

On Thursday, we passed the House version of the 2012-2014 biennial budget.  Our structurally balanced budget makes strategic investments in the core areas of government that House Republicans have emphasized this Session – helping create private sector jobs, improving education opportunities, protecting our families, and ensuring we have a more efficient and effective state government.  Most important, we have made targeted investments without raising taxes on Virginia families and businesses.

During this time of continued economic uncertainty, our top priority remains helping Virginia businesses create new jobs and opportunities.  To that end, we extended several tax credits for Virginia businesses including the major facilities job tax credits that are tied to job growth and capital investment to encourage business investment in Virginia.  We have also extended the capital gains tax credit for investments in startup businesses to increase capital for small business job creators.  To help Virginia farmers and expand Virginia’s largest industry, we have established an Agriculture and Forestry Development Fund with $2 million in funding to grow our world market. Recognizing that government can sometimes best help by staying out of the way, we removed several proposed fee increases that hinder job creation.

To improve educational opportunities, we added $575 million for K-12 public education and nearly $200 million for Virginia’s colleges and universities.  The increase for public schools will fund important programs such as K-3 class size reductions and early reading intervention.  Our $200 million investment in higher education follows on the “Top Jobs” higher education reform legislation passed with unanimous support in the 2011 General Assembly.  Part of this funding will open an additional 1,700 slots for in-state students at William and Mary, University of Virginia, James Madison University, and Virginia Tech.  We have also included funding to help our colleges expand degrees in the high demand fields- Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Health Care to support 21st century job growth.

To make our state government more efficient and effective, we have found savings in a number of areas including $2.8 million in our legislative budget.  In total, we were able to reduce agency budgets and return over $32 million to the General Fund over three years.  We have also tackled one of the biggest issues impacting future budgets – the Virginia Retirement System’s $19 billion unfunded liability.  We have designated $2.2 billion towards paying down the unfunded liability. This investment, coupled with several proposed reforms to the retirement system, represents an important step towards safeguarding the VRS for our current and future employees.  Mindful the growth of the national economy is below expectations, we have taken the prudent step of adding $300 million to increase our Rainy Day Fund to $600 million.

The members of the House of Delegates have worked very hard to create a bi-partisan budget that reflects the basic foundations of the needs of Virginians and their state government.  However, there is still much that needs to be done to finalize the state budget.

In the Senate, political gamesmanship is preventing a budget from being passed.

I call on the Senate Democrats to come to the table, just as the Democrats did in the House of Delegates, and work with the Senate Republicans to craft a compromised budget.

Virginia expects it. Virginia deserves it.

                                                                   Sincerely,

Jackson H. Miller

Majority Whip, Virginia House of Delegates

50th District

RALLYING FOR THE RIGHT TO LIFE AT THE CAPITOL SQUARE BELL TOWER IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

The Virginia Christian Alliance took the lead in sponsoring the rally. They have a good explanation of the need for the rally here.

Other participating organizations included:

I expect other organizations were also involved, but the haste in organizing the event precluded the publication of a program.

Anyway, pictures will tell this story. It begins with a sunny, relatively warm day in February.

I arrived at the Capitol Square Bell Tower and surveyed the crowd.

The police seemed relaxed.

Yellow (scarfs and balloons) provided the official color of the event.

The Bell Tower provided an impressive backdrop.

The posters made it clear abortion is both a religious and a legal issue.

Here are the speakers lined up.  Senator Dick Black and Delegate Bob Marshall are at the head the line.  E. W. Jackson Sr. provided the last speech.  Black used the opportunity to provide an endorsement of Marshall’s run for the U.S. Senate. Marshall emphasized that HB1 addresses a human rights issue. He urged folks to get our governor and lieutenant governor’s support for the bill. Jackson gave a fiery religious sermon, emphasizing that abortion issue involves a battle between good and evil, one we must fight with love and prayer. All three in their own way noted the historic nature of this battle.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, not included in the photo above, also spoke. Cuccinelli reminded us of Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, highlighting the words in bold below.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

Cuccinelli said that government exists to protect our rights, no more — no less. He also said this battle over rights will not end in our lifetimes.

The gentleman below, dressed as George Washington, ended the occasion with a prayer.

As the event ended, I found myself struck by a profound contrast. In silent protest, the woman shown below stood just beyond the perimeter of the prolife rally.Without a doubt, abortion is a woman’s rights issue. Nonetheless, abortion rights long ago ceased to be a battle over the oppression of women by men. Consider what the lady shown below, representing Silent No More, said about her experience with abortion. Because she submitted voluntarily to an abortion, she said felt more violated by the abortion than the rape which led to it.

Other dignitaries I saw at event included Delegate Jackson Miller and Senator Mark Obenshain. Because I have only listed the people I know well enough to recognize, there are others I have not listed.

DELEGATE JACKSON MILLER REPORTS ON THE 2012 SESSION: WEEK 1

Here is Delegate Jackson Miller‘s report on the General Assembly.

While the 2012 General Assembly Session didn’t officially begin until Wednesday, the first week was a busy one.  Between bill filing, press conferences, the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast, and meeting with constituents who stopped by to see me, this week was packed with a number of exciting events I want to share with you in this week’s update.

Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address

In his speech on Wednesday night, Governor McDonnell set out a bold agenda in his State of the Commonwealth address.  Governor McDonnell also challenged Republicans and Democrats in both chambers to work together for the benefit of all Virginians.  A number of the proposals he laid out in his speech will likely receive bipartisan support, such as initiatives to continue to help businesses create new jobs and opportunities, a $200 million investment in our colleges and universities to expand enrollment at an affordable cost, and a record $2.2 billion investment in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) for our teachers and state employees.

Of course, not all of the Governor’s proposals will enjoy bipartisan support, and there will be spirited debate about those proposals; however, I believe those disagreements will not lead to the partisan gridlock we see in Washington.

In case you were unable to watch the Governor’s address live, below are links to the text and video from the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address.

Click here to read the text of the address

Click here to watch the address

Legislation

This year I have filed fifteen bills.  They range in topic, but the one I’d like to highlight this week is HB 215: Child abuse and neglect; mandatory reporting.

We must do everything we can to protect the Commonwealth’s children from sexual predators and abusers, and this bill will reduce the time allowed for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect by a mandated reporter from 72 hours to 24 hours. Reducing the mandatory minimum reporting time will help protect young victims of sexual assault from being victimized again from their attacker.  The current law imposes a fine of not more than $500 for a first offense and not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 for a second offense.  My bill would also change those fines by providing that failure to report will instead be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first failure and a Class 6 felony for a second or subsequent offense. You may read the full language here.

For a full list of the legislation I have submitted for the 2012 Session click here.

Committee Assignments

In the first week of Session, I also received my committee assignments.  I will continue serving on Commerce & LaborCourts of Justice, as well as Privileges & Elections.  New this year, I am honored to serve as Chairman of the Privileges & Elections’ Constitutional Amendments sub-committee.  You may click on any committee name in blue to find out more information.

Contact Me

As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you.  We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency.  My office can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1050 or by email at jackson@jacksonmillerva.com.  Also, if you have not had a chance to take my Legislative Survey, you may take it by clicking here.  If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me, I am in Room 418.

Once again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Delegate.

Sincerely,

Jackson H. Miller
Majority Whip, Virginia House of Delegates
50th District

PS: Please feel free to forward this to any friends or interested community members.