There are just two weeks left in the 2016 General Assembly Session. But, the pace hasn't slowed down as we focus on passing a final state budget. On Sunday, the House released our budget proposal for Fiscal Years 2016-18. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve been working diligently the last few weeks to carefully examine the many deserving needs in the Commonwealth, while balancing that list with the reality of our current financial status. The result is a structurally balanced budget that makes wise investments in the core functions of state government. Read further in this newsletter to learn more about those investments.
On Thursday, the House budget was passed by a vote of 98-2. At this point, our six budget negotiators will work with their Senate counterparts to craft a final agreement that can be sent to Governor McAuliffe's desk for his signature.
I also want to remind you that Tuesday, March 1, is Virginia's Presidential Primary. The world is run by those who show up. No matter your political views, please exercise your right to vote! Polls will be open between 6AM and 7PM on Tuesday. If you need assistance with finding your polling place, visit: https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation/PollingPlaceLookup
As always, I am grateful for your confidence and look forward to participating in a process that produces good public policy that benefits our district and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
All The Best,
Delegate Scott Garrett M.D.
The 2016-18 House Budget
As the Chairman of House Appropriations, Delegate Chris Jones, said in his remarks on Sunday, “In the Commonwealth we can’t print it, we must earn it, and then spend it wisely.”
The balanced budget we proposed on Sunday includes no tax or fee increases, takes steps to eliminate future liabilities, and makes strategic investments in K-12 and higher education. As required by the Virginia Constitution, this budget includes $605.6 million in Rainy Day Funds which was used, as intended, to weather the recession. Virginia remains in a sluggish economic recovery. While state revenues are beginning to grow, the rate of growth is well below the historic growth trend of 6.0%. In fact, the rate of growth for Fiscal Years 2016, 2017, and 2018 will average 3.3%, about seven-tenths of a percent less than the 15 year average.
Despite a lingering recession, the House of Delegates remains committed to funding the core essential functions of our state government. The Speaker described our actions as “responsibly charting Virginia’s fiscal future.” The investments in education, health care, infrastructure and public safety will improve the lives of our citizens and make Virginia even better.
Central Virginia Items of Interest
For those of us in Central Virginia, the House budget funds many important regional issues. We increased the Tuition Assistance Grants from $3,100 per student to $3,300 per student, benefitting individuals attending our local private colleges and universities. The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research in Forest should receive just under $1 million to restore the facility to operational conditions. Virginia’s largest industry is agriculture and forestry, which is also essential in Central Virginia. With that in mind, the House budget recommends an increase in the highly successful Agriculture and Forestries Industries Development Fund of $1 million each year, doubling the size of the program. Also, the House budget includes $52 million for the Natural Resources Commitment Fund, geared towards agricultural best management practices and previously approved livestock exclusion projects.
In addition to these region-specific items, the House prioritizes public education, the single largest financial investment in the budget, by providing a two-year net increase of $898 million in public education. This includes the state’s share of a 2% salary increase for teachers and support staff, effective July 10, 2017. Educators guide our most valuable assets, our children, and we must offer competitive salaries to recruit and retain the best and brightest educators.
The House budget funds strategic and targeted investments in economic development, while promoting increased accountability and oversight. The House budget includes $110 million in new money for economic development, $59 million less than Governor McAuliffe originally proposed in his version of the budget. We redirected the $59 million to K-12 and higher education. Also included in the House budget is the elimination of the Accelerated Sales Tax on over 90% of businesses by the end of FY 2018.
The House budget invests $28.9 million in new funding to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding for substance abuse treatment and the creation of two new Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) teams that provide proactive, personalized, team-based care to patients with serious mental illnesses. Our budget also provides 100 new Developmental Disability waiver slots to address the critical waiting list of our most vulnerable citizens transitioning from institutionalized care to community based care.
For More Detailed Information
There are many more items to be proud of in the House budget. Too many to list here. If you’d like to review the document, please visit budget.lis.virginia.gov. The budgeting process is far from over. The Senate also released their version of the state budget on Sunday. Going forward, we will work together to reconcile the places where we disagree and ultimately pass a conservative, responsible, and structurally balanced budget.
As the sign says that I place on my desk during every meeting in Richmond, "Everything costs somebody something." I am aware that you entrust us with your hard earned money and pledge to do my best to see it's spent wisely.
This week several groups stopped by to visit my Richmond office, including:
- Amherst 4-H Club
- Dr. Matt Gage, Liberty University
- Lesley McPhatter, Registered Dieticians
- Will Milton (pictured above), with parents Craig and Kristy Milton, of Bedford.
Paid and Authorized by Friends of Scott Garrett