Of the 2600 bills introduced this year, most legislation has been handled. The Virginia budget is the main bill left to iron out as we work toward the March 8th deadline.
Virginia must have a balanced budget by law. We must anticipate the dollars available during the next two years. Then there are tough choices and tough votes. We cannot fund everything that is expected.
The original budget proposal was prepared by former Governor McDonnell. The House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee have separately amended the budget, so that we have two different versions. On February 20th, the House voted to adopt their version by a margin of 74-25. On the same day the Senate passed their budget by a vote of 23-17.
Now the House and Senate Conferees (negotiators) will meet to reach a consensus that can move forward. The new 2-year budget goes into effect July1st.
I want to share some information about the House Budget. There is a new chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Delegate Chris Jones. He works diligently. Since the House Budget was introduced, the Committee has conducted 5 public hearings across the state in order to receive input from the citizens on priorities they would like to see addressed.
Then the Committee fully vetted the introduced budget, with a back drop that Virginia’s economy, while growing, shows a rate of growth less than the historical trend rate. They involved all 100 members of the House by holding small group briefings on both sides of the aisle.
With the information gathered, the Budget Committee charted a course with goals and principles. First, the budget must be structurally balanced. As required by the Virginia Constitution, the budget will include a required percentage to go to the Rainy Day Fund which is nearly $243 million. This will replenish the fund which was used to weather the recession. The fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2016 will be approximately $939 million.
Also, to guard against a downward revision of revenue income, the committee set aside $137 million in a revenue reserve fund. If it is not needed, then it will serve two purposes: to provide state and state-supported employees a compensation adjustment and, second, to address the State Employee Retirement System. This could help us reach 100% of the contribution rates certified by the VRS Board of trustees three years earlier than projected.
Specific budget increases include:
- K-12 Education- additional $530.9 million
- Higher Ed- additional $210 million, including $20 million to help moderate tuition costs; $6.2 million to pay for additional in-state seats at William & Mary, UVA, Virginia Tech and JMU
- VTAG- Tuition Assistance Grants- additional $8.2 million, raising the award from $3,100 to about $3,300.
To Help the Vulnerable
- 50 Additional Intellectual Disability (ID) waivers, increase of 750 (already serving more than 10,000)
- 15 Additional Developmental Disability (DD) waivers, increase of 65 (already serving more than 1,100)
- $23.7 million- provide psychiatric inpatient services to individuals in crisis and allow for extension of emergency custody for 2 extra hours, and provide for real-time psychiatric bed registry
- $24.3 million to provide for 17 new crisis intervention drop-off centers, more than doubling the number in existence; increase outpatient services for youths 17-24
- Additional $5.5 million for domestic violence and sexual assault services
Hospitals and Healthcare
- Restore $118.6 million in total funds for Medicaid inflation
- Danville Regional Medical Center would receive $848,130
- Martinsville Memorial Hospital would receive $448,317
These are just some of the House Budget items. The real impasse could come with our differences regarding Medicaid expansion. The Senate Budget has a Medicaid expansion plan, but the House Budget does not.
In regard to Medicaid expansion, I want to share a statement made by Delegate Chris Jones, chairman of House Appropriations:
“While not having a fiscal impact on this two year budget, expanding Medicaid will cost the Commonwealth $467.5 million beginning in the 2020-2022 biennium. Of course that assumes that the federal government does not renege on its promise to pay 90% of the cost.
I have heard that if we do not include Medicaid expansion in our budget, then we will not have a budget at all. Expanding Medicaid will not ward off a decline in revenues. It does not add any more money to public education, police, or mental health. Then why would our Governor want to shut down state government over this issue? My guess is that he feels that the budget is the only hostage that has value and that by denying our schools, our public safety and our state employees he will get what he wants.
The Commonwealth’s covenant Triple “A” rating is not in jeopardy. To threaten to shut down government or to even suggest such a tactic defies logic in my opinion.
The budget is the most important piece of legislation we deal with. Our failure to pass a budget because of Medicaid is quite frankly irresponsible.”
The House Budget does not have Medicaid Expansion. The Senate Budget does. We must pass a budget in a timely manner because every locality in the state is depending on state dollars for K-12 education, law enforcement, and the list goes on and on.
If the issue of expanding Medicaid stops the budget, Virginia comes to a halt on July 1st.
If you live in my district and have not taken the 2014 Legislative Survey, please go to www.dannymarshall.com and find it on the lower right section of the homepage.
Also, if you want to read or keep up with Virginia legislation, you may go on line to: http://legis.virginia.gov/ As always, I hope that my 14th District constituents will let us know how you feel about the state issues that are before us.