This weekend marks the end of the normal winter session.
Although there may be a special session later this spring, I’m happy overall with the way the session has gone so far this year. Some solid bills have been passed, and some great legislation didn’t pass, but did make substantial forward progress that will carry over into future years.
I look forward to coming back to my district, close to the folks I represent, back to my family, and back to my business. The job of representing the people of the 33rd District will continue though, as I seek out your input on ways we can improve our quality of life, and I invite you to call, email, or visit with me in the district to discuss ideas or to just get acquainted.
THE BUDGET - TRANSPORTATION
The House is in the final stages of budget negotiations. This needs to happen soon so no funding is held up, and our local governments and school districts can get the information they need to get their own budgets in order.
One amendment would require all projects being funded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to be rated to ensure that the projects that are most cost-effective are funded (some projects are currently exempt from rating).
Another amendment prohibits VDOT from spending money on expensive public relations propaganda campaigns. VDOT should provide legal notice where needed, but using transportation funds to influence public opinion does not help our traffic congestion problem.
These amendments have wide support in the House, but it will be up to the conferees to see that they make it through negotiations with the Senate (the conferees of the House and Senate meet to resolve differences in their respective budget bills).
Transportation remains one of the key challenges of our district. Northern Virginia has the worst traffic in the Country. This means that traffic mitigation is one of the clearest ways forward to economic improvement and a better quality of life. If we can allocate transportation dollars better, we can save money, help local businesses and families, and make the region a more desirable place for new employers to set up shop. That’s real progress!
THE BUDGET STALEMATE
The House is standing by the budget bill we passed. It’s an economically responsible bill, setting aside over $380 million in accounts to offset any future potential economic slowdown, and it prioritizes caring for the health and welfare of our citizens, including $81 million in total funds to restore the Medicaid inflation adjustment for hospitals, and $111 million inflation adjustment for Virginia nursing homes. Most importantly, this budget will keep the State in good fiscal shape for the future, enabling us to continue to attract businesses and grow our economy. It’s a business-like budget, and that’s not something that can be said of a budget that includes a Medicaid expansion.
Our governor once criticized republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for using the threat of a government shutdown as a bargaining chip. Now, as the budget debate drags out, I hope he’ll heed his own advice and not hold up the passage of a budget to get an Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Virginia.