News from Richmond Feb 24, 2012

House Passes a Fiscally Responsible Budget without Any Tax Increases

 

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.

 

In the area of protecting our families, we have added $14.8 million over the biennium for our sheriff departments. For those brave men and women who have served our country, we have included additional funding in the Department of Veterans Services to increase the number of veterans claims agents to help speed up the processing of veterans claims. Protecting our families includes ensuring our most vulnerable citizens have the care they need. Our budget restores many proposed cuts to the health safety net, including proposed cuts to free health clinics. We also have provided funding for 970 new Intellectual Disability waivers and 100 new Developmental Disability waivers. The waivers provide the funds to move family members with disabilities from distant training centers to health care support near home.

 

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.

 

We have worked tirelessly to produce a budget that reflects our core principles and was pleased that eleven Democrats joined House Republicans in supporting the House budget. While we have made significant progress in the budget thus far, there is still much work to be done. In the other chamber, Senate Democrats have unfortunately decided to obstruct progress on passing a budget simply for their own political gain. I believe Governor McDonnell and Lt. Governor Bolling said it best when they said, “This is not the Virginia way.” I call on the Senate Democrats to take a page from the House Democrat playbook and work with Republicans to help craft a fiscally responsible budget that makes strategic investments in the core areas of government instead of playing partisan political games.         

   

Governor McDonnell Announces agreement reached on Tax Fairness billGov. McDonnell on Tax Fairness

 

Governo McDonnell on Rising Oil and Gasoline Prices Gov McDonnell on Oil and Gasoline Prices

 

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 at (804) 698-1098 or via the Internet at Email me Here. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 821.

 

Keith

February 25, 2012 |

News from Richmond – Feb 20, 2012

Crossover

We have crossed the halfway point of the 2012 General Assembly Session, and the House has completed action on all House bills and begun to take action on the 403 bills that passed out of the Senate. On the other side, the Senate has begun to take action on the 603 bills that passed the House.

House Highlight Successful Legislative Agenda at Crossover

On Wednesday, the House Republican Caucus held a press conference to highlight a number of successful Republican bills related to our primary focus – creating jobs, expanding educational opportunities, protecting our families, and reforming state government.  

To help businesses create new jobs and opportunities, we advanced HB-33 and HB-714, respectively that protect non-unionized labor and extend the Major Jobs Business Facility Tax Credit. These bills, along with several other measures, will have a positive impact on job growth and keep Virginia among the best states to do business.  

To expand educational opportunities, we put forward and passed HB-321 and HB-1173 which, respectively, provide tax credits for businesses that contribute to scholarships for children who qualify for free or reduced lunches and increase flexibility for charter schools.

We are also committed to making our state government as efficient and effective as possible. Our top priority in the area of government reform is to ensure that current and future employees have a reliable retirement system. HB-1130 will allow existing or new government employees the option of choosing a defined contribution plan, similar to the 401(k) plans used throughout the private sector. Other major government reform bills include HB-1291 and HB-1295, which will eliminate a number of boards and commissions and reduce mandates on local government.

Last, but certainly not least, we are committed to ensuring the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth.  We passed a number of public safety measures that will increase penalties for drunk drivers, pedophiles, and rapists. We also passed two bills that will codify the castle doctrine to allow for homeowners to defend themselves from an intruder without fear of civil or criminal prosecution.

While House Republicans worked to pass legislation to move Virginia forward, the House Democrats have continued to emphasize a handful of bills to generate extensive debate in order to divert attention from the extreme legislation sponsored by their members. After House Democrats introduced legislation to study the sale of marijuana in ABC stores and reinstate parole, it is little wonder they want to divert attention. Tax increases were also a top item on their legislative agenda. In total, House Democrats introduced eleven tax increases with an estimated fiscal impact ranging from $2.0 million to $744.4 million in increased taxes for Virginia families and businesses. To keep Virginia’s economic recovery on track, House Republicans successfully blocked all tax increases proposed by House Democrats.

Budget Leaders Begin to Unveil Biennial Budget

With Crossover behind us, the primary focus for the second half of Session will turn to the state budget. On Thursday, Delegate Lacey Putney, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee, gave a preview of the House budget.  He summed up the House budget when he said, “Our [budget] will provide additional funding for both our public schools and our local governments so that they can keep local taxes low, use one-time savings to fund non-recurring costs such as capital projects,  minimize the amount of new debt, provide full funding of the VRS contribution rates, reduce the burden on Virginia’s businesses with fewer and lower fees, provide additional support to attract new industry and promote tourism, and make the largest investment in over a decade to our colleges and universities.”

Following Delegate Putney’s speech, Majority Leader Cox rose to highlight the additional funding for localities and K-12 public education included in the House budget. The House’s budget puts nearly $580 million in new funding into our children’s classrooms and begins the process to restore funding for localities that had been cut in prior year budgets.

Tebow Bill Passes House

On the floor this week, the House passed HB-947, which paves the way for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams. The bill, nicknamed the “Tebow Bill”, requires the Virginia High School League, the organization that governs high school athletics in Virginia, to allow home school students to try out for public schools teams. Currently, twenty-two states allow for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams, including Florida where Tim Tebow was allowed to play on his high school football team. After the bill had passed, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) “Tebowed” on the floor of the House. (picture & story: (News article)

House Unveil 2012 Public Safety Agenda

This week, some of my Republican colleagues held a press conference to highlight a number of public safety initiatives to keep families safe from habitual drug traffickers, individuals who prey on children, drunk drivers, gang members, and those who commit domestic violence.

Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) discussed two of his bills, HB-968, which will increase penalties for habitual drug traffickers, keeping our kids away from drugs and drug-related violence, and HB-973, which would impose a mandatory life sentence for raping a child under the age of 12.  In the last two years, 228 children under the age of 12 have been victims of these horrific crimes, and only 10 of these cases resulted in a life sentence, with a median sentence of 13 years.  

Delegate Dave Albo (R-Fairfax) has put forward two bills, HB-49 and HB-50, which respectively increase the jail time for DUI-maiming and DUI-manslaughter. 

Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockingham) introduced two bills to address strangulation and gang recruitment.HB-752 raises the penalty of assault and battery via strangulation in an attempt to curb the elevation of domestic violence. To help combat gang violence, Cline also introduced HB-751, which will make it a felony to induce criminal activity or recruit a gang member via the internet, a telephone, or text message. With technological developments, gangs are using new methods of communication to recruit, discuss, and plan criminal activities. 

Protecting our families and keeping our streets safe is one of the most important responsibilities of the government. I, along with my Republican colleagues, are 100% committed to doing everything we can when it comes to protecting children and  keeping families safe from the dangers of this world.  

Making Virginia the Most Veteran Friendly State

This week, the House passed a handful of bills aimed at accomplishing Governor McDonnell’s goal of making Virginia the most veteran and military friendly state in the Nation.  On Monday, the House passed HB-719, a bill that allows for a veteran with a permanently disabled service-connected disability to purchase a lifetime hunting, fishing, or combined hunting and fishing license at a discounted rate. The House also passed HB-384 which would give hiring preference for state jobs to members of the Virginia National Guard. This bill builds from last year’s successful efforts to give hiring preference for state jobs to veterans.

Visitors

Realtors
Family Foundation
4-H
Wine Groups
Family Foundation Pastor’s Day
Virginia 21
Girl Scouts

Photo’s of recent visitors

Commissioner of Revenue visitors

Girl Scouts day @ Capitol

Sunday night we had a brief snow storm – which covered Capitol square –

Sunrise over snow covered capitol.

 

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 at (804) 698-1098 or via the Internet at Email me Here. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 821.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

Keith

February 20, 2012 |