We have made difficult choices over the last year in the House of Delegates to address the budget shortfall caused by President Obama’s sequestration and tax increase. The governor proposed in his budget more than $10 million in new fees on Virginia families and $42 million in new government debt. The House took a different approach, paying for building projects with existing revenues and eliminating $10.2 million in fees.
We put $99.5 million in Virginia’s rainy day fund to guard against future tax increases. The governor wanted to expand Medicaid and tried to bypass the General Assembly in creating his own new health care entitlement program.
We took a conservative approach, opposing Medicaid expansion and the Governor’s plan, but also working to strengthen existing safety net programs for those in the most need.
We targeted more money to classrooms and making college more affordable and accessible, where it can make the most difference for Virginia families.
Overall, the House general fund budget this year spends $1.1 billion dollars less than last year’s budget.
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.
Classroom Success K-12 Education Agenda
I supported several bills that improve Virginia’s Standards of Learning Assessments so that they better measure student learning and give students additional opportunities to succeed. We also passed legislation to develop a standardized system for granting college credits for high school AP or other advanced classes.
We made historic reforms to K-12 education in Virginia this year. We passed a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment to make it easier to establish charter schools in Virginia. For the first time, an identical resolution also passed in the Senate. We passed legislation establishing a full-time virtual school available to all students in the Commonwealth. My bill, HB 2238, will create education savings accounts to give special needs students more choices than a one-size-fits-all public school education that may not meet their needs.
Virginia has some of the top colleges and universities in the Country, but costs have been increasing and too many Virginia students find themselves on waitlists or unable to attend our best schools. We worked to address both those issues in the budget by targeting funds to opening up new enrollment slots and providing additional funding to make it more affordable to transfer from community college to a four-year institution.
We also passed important legislation to make college more affordable. The House passed bills that cap student athletic fees, that allow colleges to offer lower-cost “flat-fee degrees” for in-demand fields, and that offer significantly less costly online bachelor’s degrees. I supported these bills to give Virginia students more affordable pathways to the opportunities that a good education provides.
I’m in Richmond right now to serve you, my constituents, and represent your interests in the general assembly. It’s a responsibility that I take seriously. Lawmakers are not entitled to the public trust, it must be earned.
Over the last two years, that trust has been shaken in Virginia. That’s why I supported additional reforms passed in the House this year to Virginia’s ethics laws that create a $100 gift cap and bolster Virginia’s independent advisory panel. Last year, the House passed legislation that also prohibits the governor from accepting campaign contributions from companies knowingly seeking grants from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed that legislation. The House has included it again in this year’s ethics reform package, because the public deserves confidence that their tax dollars are being spent on core government functions, not political considerations.
Visitors and Events
Celebrating Del. Mark Berg's birthday with him, Del. Bob Marshall, and our staff
This week included "Realtor Day." A large group of Realtors from the 33rd District visited the office.
Wednesday included a special event: the reunion of “Spike,” a former EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) dog with his former handler, US Marine Corps Corporal Jared Heine. Now a bomb dog with the Virginia Capitol Police, Spike was paired in Afghanistan with Cpl. Heine. The two were separated when Cpl. Heine was injured by an IED and redeployed to the United States for medical care and recovery. Watch a local TV report on this story here.