We have officially passed the halfway point of the General Assembly. The House has completed work on its legislation for the year, and will now only consider bills sent over from the Senate. The “crossover” week is always one of the busiest of the year, but we managed to accomplish a lot.
The House passed its amendments to the state’s two year budget, we made significant progress on several important bills that will expand school choice, passed meaningful reforms to our ethics laws and continue to stay focused on the priorities that matter most to you.
We have made difficult choices over the last year to address the state’s budget shortfall, which was largely caused by sequestration and federal tax increases. We continued that work this year, adopting a set of conservative, responsible amendments to carry us through the remainder of the budget cycle.
The House eliminated $10.2 million in fees and $42.5 million in new government debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe. We set aside $99.5 million for the next rainy day fund deposit. And we, once again, rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
Overall, the House general fund budget this year spends $1.1 billion less than last year’s budget.
Because of our conservative budgeting, we were able to make some targeted investments. We strengthened the health care safety net, doubling funding for our free clinics. We provided pay raises for state police officers and state employees. And we put more money into our classrooms.
I also supported legislation that passed the House to prevent state agencies from spending beyond their means with IOUs that haven’t been approved by the General Assembly.
We have a responsibility to make sure that your tax dollars are spent wisely, and the House of Delegates this year once again served as a check on runaway government spending.
Expanding access to education
Over the years, my colleagues and I in the House of Delegates have consistently supported a constitutional amendment to make it easier to establish charter schools in Virginia. But for the first time, the Senate passed an identical measure. Both chambers must pass identical resolutions next year, and then the amendment will be sent to the voters for final approval in the fall of 2016. While we still do not know the final outcome, this year could mark an historic moment for Virginia’s education system.
The House also passed two other measures that will increases choice and access in education. We passed legislation establishing a full-time virtual school available to all students in the Commonwealth. We passed education savings account reforms, to give special needs students more choices than a one-size-fits-all public school education that may not meet their needs.
Visitors & Events
As I said, crossover is one of the busiest weeks in Richmond. This week I was honored to meet with Kim McClellan and other relators from the Fredericksburg area, Longwood University President Taylor Reveley and several other groups.
My colleagues and I also held a press conference to highlight our work on strengthening our schools, making college more affordable, making government work better and conservative budgeting. For more on the status of our agenda at the halfway point, click here.