Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2019 Session - Week 5

We have passed the official midpoint of the 2019 Session and we’re now on the downhill side! 

Before I provide an update on the happenings in the General Assembly Session, I feel that I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the events that have transpired over the last week in the Commonwealth.  The revelations against and admissions made by our state leaders are both surprising and disturbing.  It has been a tough week for Virginians on all political spectrums and has understandably shaken their faith in our Government.

Virginia has weathered storms before and we will weather this one as well.  In the meantime, the legislature is committed to continue our work on the hundreds of bills still before us with as little interruption as possible.  We were sent here to do a job and I want you to assure you that while our Commonwealth has been deeply shaken by these developments, our work continues without disruption.

I hope you will join me in praying for our Commonwealth and our leaders at this difficult time.

Tax Relief and Tax Conformity

Republicans in the House and Senate have agreed on the terms of a $1 billion tax relief package.  This is the most significant tax relief plan in at least 15 years and the second largest tax cut in Virginia history. This tax relief package is expected to be voted on by the House and Senate on Monday, then forwarded to Governor Northam, who has endorsed this legislation.

The compromise will provide $420 million in tax refunds to Virginia taxpayers in October of 2019, increase the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, maintain the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and include key business tax provisions for Virginia’s largest job creators.

Under this plan, married couples will receive a tax refund check of up to $220 in October and beginning next year, will receive $173 in tax relief on their state taxes, for a total of $400 back over the next two years.

The total package will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are placed in the state’s cash reserve fund. The legislation also conforms Virginia tax law to the federal law.

It is important to note that although this is compromise legislation between General Assembly Republicans and the administration, it does not yet include an emergency clause. An emergency clause requires 80 percent in each chamber and would take effect immediately upon signature by the Governor. Without the emergency clause these changes in the law would not take effect until July 1, too late for this tax season.  House and Senate Democrats have blocked emergency legislation in both chambers. The lack of an emergency clause, if not remedied, will cause significant delays in processing state tax returns and refunds.

College Savings Plan

Earlier this week the House passed legislation to make it easier for middle class students and families to afford college by lowering the price of Prepaid529 plans.

With Virginia students borrowing more than $1 billion per year to pay for college, lowering the cost of college has been a top priority of General Assembly members on both sides of the aisle.  This amount of student debt hurts our economy and makes it harder for our college graduates to get started after college. This legislation is another big step in helping middle class students and families afford a college education at one of Virginia’s fine colleges or universities.

Currently families pay a 10 percent “pricing reserve” on top of the semester contract prices.  The pricing reserve has been used to mitigate risk to the fund, but a recent JLARC study found that Virginia’s Prepaid529 program is 138% funded and actuarially sound.  This means the fund is more than capable of meeting all its benefit commitments.

Because of this study, Delegates Steve Landes and Tim Hugo introduced legislation that would cap the pricing reserve at 5% so long as the program remains more than 105 percent funded, as it is currently. Its high funded status is one of the reason’s that JLARC recommended to the General Assembly that it focus on measures to improve program affordability. They estimate that reducing the pricing reserve from 10% to 5% would lower the current cost of an 8-semester contract by more than $3,000.

This is commonsense measure is another step forward in helping lower the cost of a college education.

Contact Us!

I love hearing from constituents on issues that matter most to you! We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2019 Session.  

The quickest way to reach us by phone is by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We do not monitor the voicemail on our district office phone during the legislative session.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you’re in the Richmond area during Session and would like to stop by for a visit, please do so. Our committee schedule is very demanding, but I make every attempt to see constituents who come visit in Richmond.  We do not require appointments, but they are encouraged.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!

 

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