During yesterday's floor session, both the House and Senate completed work on their respective budgets. I am often asked how certain programs receive state funding. The process begins with the Governor's proposed budget, which is introduced as a bill in both the House and the Senate. General Assembly members are then able to submit amendments to their chamber's respective budget bills.
In the House of Delegates, the Appropriations Committee is tasked with considering House members' requests for budget amendments. The Appropriations Committee is divided into subcommittees that consider specific areas of the budget. These subcommittees then make recommendations as to which amendments should be adopted. Final recommendations were disclosed last Sunday, and the proposed amendments were posted on the budget website.
What happens if a delegate doesn't like the budget proposed by the Appropriations Committee? General Assembly members are able to object to budget items and offer floor amendments. The House reviews these requests individually and can make changes to the proposed budget. We did so during yesterday's floor session.
Our work is far from finished, though. Next week, the House will review the Senate budget while the Senate considers the House budget. Because there are differences between the two versions, each chamber will reject the other body's budget. Budget conferees are then appointed and tasked with resolving those differences. Expect an update next week!
What's in the budget?
I recognize that your tax dollars support our state government, and I take seriously my commitment to fiscal conservativism. The House budget does not include any tax or fee increases. We deposit $605 million in the state's rainy day fund, thereby restoring the fund to 90% of its previous balance. This fund enables the state to weather economic downturns without resorting to tax increases. Compared to the budget proposed by Governor McAuliffe, the House budget reduces Virginia's borrowing by over $900 million over the next few years.
Education Education remains a top priority for Virginians, and I am pleased that the House will send over $270 million back to local schools through the lottery program. This offers flexibility on the local level rather than a top-down mandate from Richmond. Additionally, the House budget designates $237.1 million to hold college tuition increases to three percent or less per year. Affording college remains a concern among my constituents, and I am pleased that this investment will increase access to higher education.
Our approach to improving healthcare access includes a $28.9 million investment in the healthcare safety net for Virginia's most vulnerable citizens. Funds will be directed to substance abuse treatment and to Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT), which provide care for patients with serious mental illnesses. Additionally, the budget funds 100 new Developmental Disability waiver slots to address the waiting list of people transitioning from institutional care to community based care.
Garter snake update
Earlier this week, the Senate considered my legislation designating the garter snake as Virginia's official reptile. Aiden again traveled to Richmond, where he offered convincing testimony before the Senate General Laws Committee. The bill passed with near unanimous support.
Little did I dream of the subsequent stir that would be generated! While on the Senate floor, a Senator offered an amendment instead proposing the timber rattlesnake as the state reptile. After heated debate and a brief lesson on snakes, my legislation passed on a vote of 33-Y 6-N. Congratulations Aiden!
As a reminder, the following Republican candidates have suspended their campaigns:
Let me know your thoughts!
Although the pace has slowed, there are still bills under consideration in Richmond. I appreciate your feedback, and I ask that you continue making me aware of your legislative priorities. I may be reached by email at DelBPogge@house.virginia.gov or by phone at 804-698-1096. If you visit Richmond prior to March 12, please stop by my office, Room 403 in the General Assembly Building.
Enjoy your weekend!
Delegate Brenda Pogge
Paid for and Authorized by Brenda Pogge for Delegate
Brenda Pogge for Delegate, P.O. Box 196, Norge, VA 23127