Wrapping Up: The Virginia General Assembly Adjourned Ahead of Schedule with a Balanced Budget and Positive Outcomes
The 2015 General Assembly adjourned a day ahead of schedule with a balanced budget, no tax increase, and some very positive actions for Virginia. While both the Virginia House and Senate have Republican majorities, legislators worked for bipartisan cooperation to accomplish important goals in an efficient manner.
The adopted budget spends $1 billion less from the general fund than last year's originally-adopted budget. It eliminates more than $30 million in debt, eliminates $11 million in fees proposed by the Governor, and it rejects Medicaid expansion. It puts money into the Rainy Day fund to bring the balance back to ~$429 million. The budget does not raise taxes.
Some positive budget actions are:
- To provide pay raises for teachers, state police officers and state employees.
- To provide the state share for a pay raise for state-supported local employees.
- To authorize bonds to construct two new Veterans Care Centers.
- To provide $9 million for housing and for homelessness.
- To provide $1 million for rapid rehousing efforts, including $500,000 specifically for veterans.
- To strengthen the existing healthcare safety net for our neediest citizens - by nearly doubling funding for free clinics, increasing services to 22,000 seriously mentally-ill patients and increasing funding for children’s psychiatry and crisis services. $132.9 million was put in for the safety net.
We passed legislation to aid victims of sexual assault and protect students on college campuses. Our legislation requires colleges to work with third-party organizations to provide support to victims of sexual assault. It also requires colleges to have “review teams” to assess allegations of sexual assault. This review team will either send the allegation to law enforcement or the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review.
Making college more affordable was a top priority this year and I supported several bills to do that, including legislation to cap unreasonable mandatory student fees, encourage colleges to offer affordable “flat-fee” degrees and make it easier for families to find the information they need about college costs. The House budget also includes additional funding for additional in-state tuition slots, financial aid and transfer-student grants. We were able to provide funding for Danville Community College’s capital construction project for workforce development.
Another important focus was on improving Virginia’s economy. We passed legislation to attract innovative new companies to Virginia, make it possible for entrepreneurs to get the funding they need, fought to protect Virginia’s status as a right-to-work state and defeated job-killing legislation that would hurt small businesses.
The General Assembly also passed legislation to reform how we divide up our transportation funding. Under House Bill 1887, more money will be sent to localities rather than being spent by bureaucrats in Richmond. All three localities, Danville, Pittsylvania County and Henry County, will be receiving more money locally for transportation projects.
And finally, the House and Senate passed legislation to strengthen our ethics laws, enacting a $100 gift cap, requiring official travel to be pre-approved by an independent ethics council and requiring all disclosure reports to be filed online.
There is more information that I would like to share and it is listed on my website: www.dannymarshall.com
As always, I hope that my 14th District constituents will let us know how you feel about the state issues that are before us. If you want to read or keep up with Virginia legislation, you may go on line to: http://legis.virginia.gov/
We have returned to the Danville office and can be reached at: 434-797-5861 or email: DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or postal mail to PO Box 439, Danville, VA 24543