RICHMOND, VA – Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell today issued the following statement on the agreement by House and Senate negotiators on House Bill 1500, amendments to the state budget:
“I am happy that the Conferees for the House of Delegates and State Senate seem to have reached agreement on the amendments to the existing state budget. Balancing the budget is a difficult process, especially in this tough economic climate. When Virginia taxpayers are struggling to live within their means, they should be confident that their government is doing the same. Fortunately, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget , which promotes fiscal responsibility. I believe that the budget agreement set forth is fiscally sound; not only funding core government services, but also enacting a series of structural reforms in state spending.”
“Some of the Highlights include:
· No new fees or higher taxes: The Senate budget proposed several million in fee increases, while the House budget actually reduced fees by about $5 million. The final agreement includes no new taxes, no new fees and actually eliminates $5.7 million of fee increases adopted last year.
· 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 funding or debt for a new “Taj Mahal” to replace the General Assembly Building: The Senate budget proposed $300 million for new/renovated seat of government buildings, while House budget had zero.
· $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.
· Additional $64 million deposit into the Rainy Day Fund, totaling $114 million: The Senate budget included only $20 million on top of the $50 million included in the Governor’s introduced budget, while the House budget added an additional $64 million. The $114 million total ensures that 50% of the amounts due pursuant to the state constitution in the FY 2013-2014 biennium are set aside now. That’s fiscally prudent.
· Eliminating Accelerated Sales Tax (AST) for 80% of retailers: The Senate budget did not address this structural deficiency, while the House budget eliminated this accounting act for 98% of businesses.
· Investing in Core Government Services: The House prevailed in its insistence of setting aside an additional $30 million for the Behavioral Health Trust Fund to help intellectually and developmentally disabled Virginians. This funding will begin the process of discharging individuals in state training facilities back into our communities. There’s also $32.7 million to capitalize a new transportation infrastructure bank, $66.3 million for higher education and at least $40 million for job-creating economic development efforts. Health care, law enforcement and K-12 education also receive funding, with $104 million in the budget conference report being a one-time supplemental payment of $130 per pupil to help students and local school divisions.
“While we do see some positive signs of recovery, there is still a great deal of uncertainty with regard to job creation and business opportunities. Therefore, I’m pleased that the House Republicans have been able to help create a fiscally sound budget without increasing the tax burden on our citizens.”
“I’m pleased with the work of the budget conferees, and look forward to the passage of House Bill 1500 as one of the last items of business before tonight’s scheduled adjournment sine die of the 2011 Regular Session.”