Richmond Report – Two Weeks to Go

The fast pace continues here in Richmond as we come up to just two weeks left in the 2016 General Assembly session. This week, the House and Senate passed their versions of a new two-year state budget.

The budget includes some of the most important work we do each year at the State Capitol, and each year we in the House work diligently to produce a conservative and responsible state budget that carefully manages taxpayer resources by prioritizes saving and reducing borrowing. Other priorities of the House budget includes making targeted investments in our K-12 schools and higher education, and highlights our efforts to grow Virginia’s economy and support the healthcare safety net.

Now that the House budget has passed, our budget negotiators will work with the Senate to come to a final agreement that can be sent to Governor McAuliffe’s desk for his signature.

Conservative Budgeting

The House of Delegates takes a conservative and cautious approach to budgeting your tax dollars. The House budget does not include any tax or fee increases, but reduces what Virginia will borrow over the next few years by over $900 million compared to what Governor McAuliffe proposed. In addition, the House budget deposits $605 million in the state’s rainy day fund, saving for when there might be future economic downturns, which restores the fund to 90% of its previous balance.

Education

The House of Delegates’ commitment to educating our children for the future remains unwavering. As such, the House budget invests nearly $70 million more in our public schools than Governor McAuliffe’s budget proposal. In addition, our budget sends over $270 million back to local schools through the lottery program, which gives school leaders more flexibility than either the Senate budget or Governor McAuliffe’s introduced budget. Our local school divisions will be able to use these funds to meet their needs, rather than answer to one-size-fits-all mandates from Richmond.

The House budget also makes significant investments in higher education in order to help make college more affordable for Virginia families. Our budget includes $66 million more than Governor McAuliffe proposed, and we have designate $237.1 million to hold tuition increases to three percent or less per year.

In addition, the House budget includes an amendment to it I proposed for funding an initiative I have been working on for two years now. As many of you may know, last year I passed legislation to establish a degree program whereby an undergraduate student in Virginia may complete, through the use of online, community college, or public or private college or university courses, the course credit requirements to receive a bachelor’s degree at a tuition cost not to exceed $4,000 per academic year, or a total of $16,000. My budget amendment for this year goes toward setting up such a program through George Mason University and Old Dominion University.

Healthcare

The House of Delegates continues to hold the line against Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and again this year, the House budget does not include Medicaid expansion. For years, we have argued that Virginia cannot afford to expand Medicaid and the experiences of other states have proven this. Just this week, we learned that Kentucky’s Medicaid program faces a $611 million shortfall, largely because of Medicaid expansion.

Instead of expanding an expensive and inefficient program, the House budget invests $28.9 million in new funding to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding to create two new Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) teams that provide patient-driven, proactive, personalized, team-based care to patients with serious mental illnesses and for substance abuse treatment. The budget also expands eligibility for the GAP program, related to medical and behavioral health coverage, to 80% of the poverty level. Finally, our budget provides for 100 new Developmental Disability waiver slots to address the critical waiting list backlog of people transitioning from institutionalize care to community based care.

Status of My Legislation

I had eight bills pass the House and they are now being considered by the Senate. If you would like to follow my legislation, or that of any other member of the Virginia General Assembly, you may do so at lis.virginia.gov. In addition, you can click here to watch the live session of the House of Delegates, which typically begins at Noon each day.

I look forward to hearing and seeing folks from back home in the district. Feel free to come see me and visit my office if you will be in the Richmond area during session. While I may be in session or in a committee meeting, you can call or email to set an appointment to ensure that I will be available. If you would like to reach me or need assistance, please contact me at my Richmond office at 804-698-1024 or by email at DelBCline@house.virginia.gov. Additionally, written correspondence may be sent to P.O. Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.