Virginia Becomes Center

of the News World

Because of a bizarre and unexpected series of events, the entire national press corps has descended upon the Capitol. Being in the place where things are happening should make it more likely we’d be the first to learn about new developments in the ongoing saga. However, legislators are receiving information about the many twists and turns of the events engulfing our three statewide elected public officials the same time you are. What is most fascinating is to what ends these reporters will go to ask us of our opinions and our thoughts on everything except our focus on the budget and legislation.

With just two weeks remaining in the General Assembly session, we can’t afford to become wrapped up in the latest developments or revelations. We are focused on presenting our own bills to our House colleagues, reviewing theirs, and crafting a budget that includes $1 billion in tax relief for Virginia taxpayers. That focus was essential this last week as we completed crossover and passed the Senate package of amendments to the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget.

Budget Update

We are delighted that the Governor, Senate Democrats, and Republican House leaders understood that the Senate budget is the best way to serve the people of Virginia. If the full House accepts that position, you will be able to file your state taxes this month as well as expect a tax rebate later in the year. It also increases the standard deduction by 50% for 2019.

Placing a priority on strengthening our public schools, the Senate approved the funds necessary to cover the state share of expenses for a 5% raise in teacher pay. It included $4 million in additional funding for our successful Fast Forward Workforce Credential Grants, which are making it possible for thousands of Virginians to become certified in high-demand, high-paying fields.

We added over $25 million in additional funding for behavioral health and reserved $70 million for the Literary Fund to provide support for school construction. And, we invested millions more to accelerate the availability of broadband in rural areas.

With just two weeks remaining, there’s a lot of work to finish before we can adjourn on February 23. If you want to contact us about an issue or legislation being considered, please send us an email at District15@senate.virginia.gov or call us at (804) 698-7515.

Although you’ll have to rely on the news media, both local and national, to fill you in on the latest developments for our three statewide officials, I’ll provide more information on our continued legislative progress in next week’s column. Until then, have a great week.

To read the entire column pick up the Feb. 13, 2019 edition of the Brunswick Times-Gazette.