It is great to be back home in Lynchburg! I've spent the last 60 days in Richmond, hearing new ideas for how we can come together to improve the Commonwealth and working to balance our two year state budget. The 2016 General Assembly Session ended on Friday, March 11th, completing our work ahead of schedule for the second year in a row. The early adjournment will save taxpayers over $25,000.
During our time in Richmond, the House of Delegates worked tirelessly to strengthen Virginia's economy to help middle class families, improve our education system so all children have the opportunity to succeed, and chart a responsible fiscal course for the future. We continue to offer a positive governing vision for the Commonwealth.
This newsletter provides details on these and other important points. I am also happy to speak to your business or community group about the outcome of this session. If you'd like to schedule a time for me to speak, please contact Sarah Owen in my office at DelSGarrett@house.virginia.gov or call (434) 455-0243.
As always, I am grateful for your confidence and look forward to seeing you around town now that I'm home.
All the Best,
Delegate T. Scott Garrett M.D.
Jobs and the Economy
Virginia's economy remains a top priority for the House of Delegates. While our economy is improving slightly, it still lags behind the national recovery rate.
To help strengthen Virginia's economy, the House of Delegates passed legislation to protect Virginia workers from union bosses, rolled back the federal accelerated sales tax on 90 percent of Virginia's businesses, and resisted President Obama's job killing and unconstitutional EPA regulations.
Republicans in the House of Delegates are also leading the effort to review Virginia's economic development spending to ensure that we are maximizing the effectiveness of your tax dollars. You may recall that I gave a speech on the House Floor in January to shine light on the failed economic development project in Appomattox. You can view those remarks here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K07ZgxWEL7U.
To address this, and several other failed economic development endeavors sought by the state, the General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission to undertake ongoing and continuing oversight of economic development initiatives and tax preferences. Your taxpayer dollars are valuable and we honor our responsibility to spend them wisely.
Education matters. It is the gateway to jobs and opportunity. Virginia has a strong public school system. While most Virginia students attend a good school, some are still left behind. We are committed to maintaining Virginia's strong K-12 system, and working to give all children the opportunities in education they deserve by enacting reforms in public education, promoting choice and flexibility, and encouraging early childhood education.
Virginia families are struggling with the rising cost of higher education. Virginia students are borrowing over $1 billion per year to pay for college. The House and Senate continue to work to make college more affordable. We built on our work from 2015, when we capped mandatory student athletic fees, by providing funding for operating and maintenance at institutions to mitigate tuition increases, funding additional undergraduate financial aid, and creating a New Economy Workforce Credentialing Program that will aid students who choose to take noncredit workforce training to earn a credential in a high-demand field.
2016-2018 State Budget
Over the past several weeks I have updated you on the budget process and what items have been considered and acted upon. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I've had a front row seat and active role in crafting the final two year budget.
We are taking a number of steps to set Virginia on a responsible fiscal course - eliminating state liabilities, reducing borrowing, and making one-time investments rather than committing to long-term spending. Thanks to the leadership of Republicans in the General Assembly, state general fund spending has declined 5% over the last 10 years, when adjusted for population and inflation.
Here is a snapshot of some highlights from the 2016-18 budget:
- Includes no new tax or fee increases
- Accelerates the $189.5 million repayment to the VRS for the contribution rate deferral in 2010. This is six years ahead of schedule and saves $44 million per year moving forward
- Invests over $900 million in new funding for K-12 education ($73 million more than Governor McAuliffe proposed). This funding also gives local school divisions added flexibility
- Provides $114 million in new funding for higher education to hold down tuition costs for Virginia families.
- Makes strategic investments in economic development, but adds additional oversights to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely
- Includes funding to strengthen the healthcare safety net, but does NOT include Obamacare's Medicaid expansion or the Medicaid provider tax that Governor McAuliffe proposed
- Increases the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) from $3,100 per student/year to $3,200 in FY 2017 and $3,300 in FY 2018. This resource is critically important to students at Lynchburg College and Liberty University
I am grateful that the final budget included four funding amendments I sponsored:
- Provides funds for the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER, located on Rt 460 in Bedford Co) to launch a major new collaborative research and development initiative
- Increases the funding for Community Action Groups, such as the Lynchburg Community Action Group, by $2.25 million per year
- Increases the reimbursement rate for private duty nursing, as we work to improve our community-based healthcare assets
Provides $2.6 million for primary care medical residency slots in underserved areas of the Commonwealth
Additional Issues of Interest
Aricle VI, Section 7 of the Virginia Constitution clearly states that the General Assembly shall choose the justices for the Commonwealth. During our time in Richmond, the General Assembly did just that. We elected Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz to serve as the next Bedford General District judge, following the retirement of Judge Harold Black. We also elected Justice Stephen R. McCullough to the Virginia Supreme Court and Judge Mary B. Malveaux to the Virginia Court of Appeals. We all have been reminded in recent months of the important role the judiciary plays in our government. It is imperative that the General Assembly elect judges who are going to apply the law as written, and we believe these justices will do just that.
Second Amendment Rights
The General Assembly also reached a bipartisan agreement to restore concealed carry reciprocity following Attorney General Mark Herring's stunning announcement last Fall to rescind those agreements. This major bipartisan agreement restores and expands concealed carry reciprocity to every state in the nation with a concealed carry law. I am proud of our work to secure the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding concealed carry permit holders.
Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Scott Garrett