Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2016 Session - Week 7

It's hard to believe but there are just two weeks left of the 2016 General Assembly Session.  We're still working through legislation passed by the Senate and most committee work will be finished up by the end of next week.

This week the House and Senate both passed their budgets and conferees have begun work to hammer out the differences.  I’m extremely proud of the budget that the House produced this year.  It is conservative, responsible, and carefully manages taxpayer resources by favoring saving over borrowing.  It includes investments in K-12 as well as public colleges and universities and highlights our efforts in economic development and support of the healthcare safety net.

Now that the House budget has passed, our budget negotiators will work with the Senate to hammer out the differences.  

 The House Budget

The House of Delegates takes a conservative and cautious approach to budgeting your tax dollars. Our budget does not include any tax or fee increases and deposits $605 million in our rainy day fund.  By the end of the biennium our rainy day fund will be at $845 million. 

The House budget fully funds the state’s annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System, two years ahead of schedule and accelerated the $189.5 million repayment to the VRS for the contribution rate deferral in 2010.  Additionally, the House budget reduced the amount of money that Virginia will borrow over the next few years by proposing a bond package that is nearly 40% smaller than that proposed by the Governor. 

Our commitment to educating our children for the future is unwavering. The House budget invests nearly $70 million more in our public schools than the Governor’s budget. In addition, the House sends over $270 million back to local schools through the lottery program, which gives school leaders significantly more flexibility than either the Senate or Governor’s budget. Our schools will be able to use these funds to meet their unique needs, rather than answer to one-size-fits-all mandates from Richmond.

We also make significant investments in higher education in order to help make college more affordable for Virginia families. Our budget includes $66 million more than Governor McAuliffe’s proposal, and we designated $237.1 million to hold tuition increases to three percent or less per year. 

Instead of Medicaid expansion, the House budget invests $28.9 million in new funding to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding for substance abuse treatment and the creation of two new Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) teams that provide personalized care to patients with serious mental illnesses. We also provided for 100 new Developmental Disability waiver slots to address the critical waiting list backlog of people transitioning from institutionalize care to community based care.

The House budget also makes targeted investments in economic development, including $110 million in new money for this purpose.

For more detailed information on the House or Senate budgets visit budget.lis.virginia.gov.  It’s important to note that this process is far from over and details are subject to change as negotiations with the Senate continue.  I think we are at a good starting point, however, and look forward to sending the Governor a structurally sound and fiscally responsible budget on time.

 Visitors

Though things are starting to wind down, we were still glad to see a few folks from home this week.  We were visited by a group of local funeral directors early this week who were here to discuss legislation that may affect them.  We were pleased to see a wonderful group of students from Augusta County who were here for the annual 4H day at the General Assembly. We also visited with local representatives of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Brian Reinman from King’s Daughters.  

It’s not too late to schedule a visit!  If you are going to be in the Richmond area in the next two weeks, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.
While we make every attempt to see all of our constituents, please understand that our committee schedules can be very hectic and our schedule can change very quickly.  We appreciate your patience and understanding.

 Contact Me 

We will be operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2016 Session.  While we still monitor the voicemail on our District Office phone line, the quickest way to reach us by phone will be by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As in previous Sessions, I will provide weekly updates throughout our time in Richmond. If you know someone who would like to receive these updates, they can sign up online at bellfordelegate.com or email Savanna at Savanna@BellforDelegate.com.

You can also stay updated by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

I look forward to seeing you in Richmond! 

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.

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