The 2011 General Assembly Session adjourned "sine die" on Sunday, February 27, one day later than the scheduled adjournment date. I wanted to take a few minutes to update you on the final budget that was approved by the General Assembly on Sunday.
I believe this budget was a victory for Virginia. The Budget Conferees were able to produce a budget that was structurally and fiscally sound, and supports job growth and economic development throughout the Commonwealth. It works to fund core services without raising taxes.
Some of the highlights of the final budget include:
-No new taxes or fees: While the Senate wanted to include $6.9 million in fee increases, the House insisted that no new fees should be included in the budget. The final budget does not include any new taxes or fees, and rolls back the accelerated sales tax on 80% of retailers, which will help Virginia businesses during this time of economic uncertainty.
-Surplus funds used for non-recurring expenses: The House insisted on exercising fiscal responsibility by putting one time surplus funds towards non-recurring expenses. The final budget used surplus funds to make mostly one-time targeted investments in higher education, K-12 education, services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, public safety, and transportation.
-No earmarks for non-state agencies: The Senate budget included funding for such non-government entities as the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, Foodbank and OpSail, among others, while the House budget heeded the Attorney General's opinion that such funding is prohibited by the state constitution.
-No new debt for capital projects: The Senate wanted to add $600 million in new debt for capital projects, including $300 million for a lavish new General Assembly Building that would be used by legislators two months every year. The House fought against the increased debt, and no new debt for capital projects was included in the final budget.
-$67 Million Less in Authorized Debt: The Senate budget proposed over $700 million in debt, while the House budget reduced authorized debt by $120 million. The conference report reduces the amount of previously authorized debt by $66.8 million
-$114 million payment towards the state's rainy day fund: Over the course of the next biennial budget, the state will be constitutionally required to set aside $228 million for the state's rainy day fund. The House insisted on putting a $114 million payment into the rainy day fund this year to cover 50% of the deposit we will be required to put into the fund in the next budget cycle. I am glad to report that the final budget included the $114 million payment that was sought by the House.
-$30 million to improve care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: In the final budget, we provided $30 million for a trust fund so that Virginia can begin the process of ramping up community-based services in advance of moving away from state-run institutions.
I would like to commend the Budget conferees for reaching this agreement and creating a budget that went on to gain unanimous support in both houses, a historic feat. Balancing the budget is a difficult process, especially in this tough economic climate. While we do see some positive signs of recovery, we also still face some uncertainty. When Virginia taxpayers are struggling to live within their means, they should be confident that their government is doing the same. I believe the budget we adopted does just this, without increasing the tax burden on our citizens.
It is important to note that nothing is final until the Governor signs this bill into law. The General Assembly will reconvene in April to take up any legislation that the Governor amends or vetoes.
I am happy to be back in the 20th District. If you need to get ahold of me, please call 540-332-3998, or email me at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.