On Thursday, we passed the House version of the 2012-2014 budget. This budget makes important investments in the core areas of government that House Republicans have emphasized this Session – helping create private sector jobs, improving education opportunities, protecting our families, and ensuring we have a more efficient state government. Furthermore, we have made targeted investments without raising taxes on Virginia families and businesses.
Job Growth: During this time of continued economic hardships, our main focus was helping Virginia businesses create new jobs and opportunities. To that end, we extended several tax credits for Virginia businesses, including the major facilities job tax credits that are tied to job growth and capital investment to encourage business investment in Virginia. We also extended the capital gains tax credit for investments in startup businesses to increase capital for small business job creators. Recognizing that government can sometimes best help by staying out of the way, we removed several proposed fee increases that hindered job creation.
Funding for Education: In this Session’s budget, we added $575 million for K-12 public education and nearly $200 million for Virginia’s colleges and universities. The increase for public schools will fund important programs such as K-3 class size reductions and early reading intervention. Our $200 million investment in higher education follows on the “Top Jobs” higher education reform legislation passed with unanimous support in the 2011 General Assembly. The Top Jobs reform legislation works to make our state’s universities more accessible and affordable to Virginia students. Part of this funding will open an additional 1,700 slots for in-state students at William and Mary, University of Virginia, James Madison University, and Virginia Tech. We have also included funding to help our colleges expand degrees in the high demand fields- Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Health Care to support 21st century job growth.
Safety and Veteran Affairs: In the area of protecting our families, we have added $14.8 million over the next two years for our sheriff departments. For those brave men and women who have served our country, we have included additional funding in the Department of Veterans Services to increase the number of veterans claims agents to help speed up the processing of veterans claims.
Health Care: Protecting our families includes ensuring our most vulnerable citizens have the care they need. Our budget restores many proposed cuts to the health safety net, including proposed cuts to free health clinics. We also have provided funding for 970 new Intellectual Disability waivers and 100 new Developmental Disability waivers. The waivers provide the funds to move family members with disabilities from distant training centers to health care support near home.
Making Government More Efficient: To make our state government more efficient and effective, we have found savings in a number of areas including $2.8 million in our legislative budget. In total, we were able to reduce agency budgets and return over $32 million to the General Fund over the next three years. Mindful the growth of the national economy is below expectations, we have taken the prudent step of adding $300 million to increase our Rainy Day Fund to $600 million.
Virginia Retirement System: We have also tackled one of the biggest issues impacting future budgets – the Virginia Retirement System’s $19 billion unfunded liability. We have designated $2.2 billion towards paying down the unfunded liability. This investment, coupled with several proposed reforms to the retirement system, represents an important step towards safeguarding the VRS for our current and future employees.
The production of this budget reflects the teamwork and bipartisan efforts of the House of Delegates. Eleven Democrats joined House Republicans in supporting the House budget, and the group was able to set aside partisanship to create a fiscally responsible budget for our Commonwealth.
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