Consideration of bills introduced in the House of Delegates for the 2015 regular session concluded last week with crossover, whereby the successful pieces of legislation were delivered to the Senate.
Likewise, the House last week began its initial deliberations over measures passed by the Senate.
Foremost among the votes taken last week on the House floor were those involving the proposed House amendments to the 2014-2016 biennial budget.
As many of you know, the General Assembly convened in special session last year to address, in part, the shortfall in state revenues which were largely attributable to increased federal taxes implemented by the Obama administration.
This required the assembly to make particular reductions in state spending and special use of the “rainy day” fund in alteration of the budget initially produced. Virginia took this responsible action, while keeping the budget balanced and preserving our good credit rating.
This year, the budget amendment process began with the introduction of the governor’s proposed amendments in January, which amounted to a total of $42.5 million in debt.
This, along with $10.2 million in proposed fees, were eliminated in the House plan, the bill for which gained final passage by an overwhelming margin.
With that action, the House’s proposed budget amendments have been referred to the Committee on Finance in the Senate where work on a final conference report has begun.
The House budget proposals as passed last week adequately provide for the core functions of state government with several notable features.
Because of the sensible action we took last year, and a modest factoring of an upward revenue projection for the remainder of the biennium, the House of Delegates could this year propose a 1.5 percent increase in compensation for state police and a 2 percent increase in pay for state-supported local employees, including sheriff’s deputies.
In my view, as a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney, these increases were overdue and are certainly well deserved for the men and women who enforce our laws.
Teachers in the K-12 system also stand to receive a 1.5 percent pay raise under the House plan. Moreover, the teacher retirement fund would receive a significant deposit to ensure its future sustainability.
These priorities reflect our duty under the Virginia Constitution to provide for a system of public education that is of high quality, and ultimately of our desire to provide the children of Virginia with the most opportunities to succeed by meeting the professional needs of their educators.
Likewise, Virginia’s institutions of higher education are responsibly addressed in the proposed amendments whereby capital improvements are paid for in cash with no new debt to be incurred.
It should be noted, however, that with these proposals from the people’s House, the needs of state government are met without any increase in taxes.
Furthermore, the proposed overall general fund spending will be significantly lower than that enacted in 2014, a fiscally responsible improvement I am happy to endorse.
Del. Les Adams of Chatham represents the 16th District, which includes most of Pittsylvania County as well as Martinsville and part of Henry County.