INTERESTING FACT – VIRGINIA HAS REDUCED GOVERNMENT SPENDING!
Virginia has lowered discretionary spending to 2007 levels despite being required by the Federal Government to match exponentially increasing Medicaid costs, which have gone up over 300% since 2004, and 1200% in the past 30 years.
INTERESTING FACT – VIRGINIA IS TOP IN THE NATION FOR EXTREMELY LOW TAXES!
Virginia remains the “Best State to do Business” according to Forbes Magazine. In addition, Virginia is ranked as the No. 2 “Best State to Make a Living,” also according to Forbes. But most importantly, we have accomplished all of this while maintaining the 12th lowest unemployment rate and having the 7th lowest state tax burden!
2014 SESSION RECAP
Most likely all you heard about this past Legislative Session was the House vs. the Senate, and the Republicans vs. the Democrats, on whether or not to expand Medicaid to working age people 19–64 years of age. I will explain more on that later, but most of the time, we all get along. That’s why your Virginia Legislature gets the job done! The majority of my time representing you is spent on building and paving roads, getting your children into college, making sure we get our fair share of school funding, and putting violent criminals in prison.
As always, I would love to hear back from you. I don’t go to Richmond to “do what Dave Albo wants to do.” Rather, I go to do what you would like me to do. So as your representative, I rely on your feedback to ensure that I am best representing your concerns. If I can ever be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me at (703) 451-3555, or stop by my office on Old Keene Mill Road.
DELEGATE ALBO’S BILLS
As many of you may know, I am not too into “politics,” but seniority does have its advantages. I am now No. 7 out of 100 Delegates and Chairman of the Courts of Justice (a.k.a. “Judiciary”) Committee, and as such, I can give you a loud voice in Richmond.
This Great Recession has caused lots of budget fights, and many southern legislators have tried to take our Fairfax School money. Joined by my fellow NOVA legislators, Republican and Democrat, I led the charge against further raids on our Fairfax County schools. I am happy to report that over the past four years, we have secured $466 more per student in Fairfax County.
In addition, I have been fighting our colleges and universities for years to add more in-state slots. This budget includes $6.2 Million to add more than 1,700 new in-state slots at W&M, UVA, JMU and VA Tech! That’s a lot of progress, but I can assure you – I am not done!
HB 492: Notaries; Advertising; Notice Requirement. (Albo Chief Sponsor) In Spanish, “notario” means lawyer. Consequently many notaries have been taking advantage of recent immigrants by charging for legal advice despite the fact that they are not attorneys. This bill bars the use of the term “notario” unless such person is a licensed attorney.
Albo voted “YES.” This bill passed into law.
HB 218: Banning the Sale of E-Cigarettes to People under 18. (Albo Chief Sponsor) “Nicotine Vapor products” are essentially liquid nicotine that is vaporized via a handheld electronic device. This bill bans the sale to those under 18.
Albo voted “YES.” This bill passed into law.
HB 281: Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) contracts. (Albo Chief Sponsor) In order to guarantee that DC and MD cannot steal any money we put into Metro, this bill prohibits providing funds to Metro unless DC and MD pay their fair share. As a result of this bill, Metro amended their by-laws to make sure each state pays their proportionate share and thus bars Virginia money being used to benefit DC or MD.
Bill not needed after Metro amended their by-laws.
MENTAL HEALTH REFORM
Last fall, Senator Deeds’ son was certified as being mentally incompetent, but was released when a psychiatric bed supposedly could not be found. He was so sick, that he attacked his father and then committed suicide. So in the wake of this tragedy, I convened a special subcommittee on Mental Health reform.
As you also may recall, I worked extensively with Delegate Rob Bell (he represents Charlottesville but grew up by me in West Springfield) to rewrite the mental health code after the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007. Today, we continue to work on this type of legislation in order to be sure that those individuals who need treatment receive it.
This Session, I helped co-author a variety of bills that reformed the code regarding Mental Health. Here are our three new additions to the law:
- Allow judges to extend the holding period from four hours to eight hours for people who are displaying mental health disorders.
- If there are no available hospital beds in a mental facility, state hospitals must accept the patient. (One of the problems in the Senator Deeds’ tragedy was the lack of available beds. Consequently, we mandated that state hospitals must accept patients.)
- The previous system required caregivers to literally get on the telephone and call various hospitals to see if there was a bed available. We developed an online registry that caregivers can use to search for available beds in their region.
I could not vote for a Medicaid expansion because it would eventually force the legislature to either (1) cut K-12 Education and/or Higher Education, or (2) increase taxes to pay for it.
Medicaid is a combined federal and state program that gives free medical care to poor people. The Federal Government pays 50% and states pays 50%. “Poor” is defined by a federal chart. For example, a family of four making $23,850/year or less is classified as “poor.” Medicaid is only for “poor” children, disabled adults, and the elderly. Working age adults (ages 19-64) are not eligible for free medical insurance under the existing Medicaid program. (Note: Anyone who is seriously ill can go to a free clinic or an emergency room to receive free medical care. This debate is about who gets free medical insurance.)
The Federal Affordable Care Act “ACA” (a.k.a. “Obamacare”), sought to expand free medical insurance to working age adults, ages 19-64. The ACA promises that the Federal Government will pay 100% of the cost for three years and 90% thereafter. The debate in Virginia this year was over whether to expand Medicaid to working age adults 19-64 and take the 90% federal payment or not. There are strong arguments on both sides. Certainly, giving free health care to poor people is a nice thing to do. On the other hand, “there is no free lunch.” There are serious costs to consider. Here are a few:
- Expanding Medicaid (e.g. giving free medical insurance to people ages 19-64) would have added about 400,000 people in Virginia to government-paid-for Medicaid. It would cost $2.4 billion per year, with Virginia’s 10% costing $240 million per year. This would be the best case scenario, but as I mentioned before, Medicaid costs have gone up 1200% in 30 years and 300% in just the past 10 years. So if the expanded Medicaid tracks like the existing Medicaid, in 10 years, it could cost $720 million per year.
- The existing Medicaid has gone from less than 3% of the Virginia budget in 1974, to 23% of our budget today. It is no wonder why it is more and more difficult to find money to increase in-state slots for our Virginia colleges and universities, to send more money to our K-12 schools, and to fund everything else that the government does (e.g. police, prisons, parks, environment protection, etc…).
I have no idea where we could find $240-$720 Million per year to pay for expanded Medicaid. The only way to pay for it would be to cut schools, colleges, public safety, etc…, or raise taxes.  Since I didn’t want to cut funding for schools and I didn’t want to raise taxes, I could not vote for Medicaid expansion.
Virginia enjoyed budget surpluses for years, but things dramatically changed and we were faced with a giant budget deficit of $870.9 Million out of a $17.165 Billion budget. Virginia’s economy has plummeted in just the past few months. Many economists believe this is due to the expiration of the tax cuts implemented by President Bush and the new tax increases for the Affordable Care Act. In addition, Virginia is being hit even harder than other states because of sequestration cuts and defense cuts due to the cessation of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Consequently, citizens have lower paychecks and are sending less income tax and less sales tax to the State Capitol.
The good news is that the Virginia Legislature saved a lot of money in the Rainy Day Fund and we can use $470 Million of this to help close the deficit. By using this savings account and cutting government spending, the budget we passed closed this budget gap with no tax increases and no accounting gimmicks.
After passing last year’s transportation funding bill that I co-authored, we finally have a reliable funding stream to repave our current roads, build and widen new roads, and improve mass transit. The current estimate of revenue available for new transportation construction projects just in Fairfax County over the next six years is $1.4 Billion.
Major improvements coming to West Springfield & Southern Fairfax County areas (partial list):
- Fairfax County Pkwy ($55M)—Provide partial funding for a corridor study and environmental analysis for widening the Fairfax County Pkwy in various locations from 4 to 6 lanes. If the studies recommend these areas for widening, preliminary engineering will begin.
- Hooes Rd ($15M)—Widen Hooes Rd from 2 to 4 lanes between the Fairfax County Pkwy and Silverbrook Rd.
- Rolling Rd ($27.7M)—Widen Rolling Rd from 2 to 4 lanes from Old Keene Mill Rd to the Franconia Springfield Pkwy.
- US Rt 1 ($10M)–Study the bottlenecks on Rt 1 from the Occoquan River to the CSX Railroad Underpass and from Armistead Rd to the CSX Railroad Underpass, to possibly widen Rt 1 from 4 to 6 lanes in these areas.
- Popes Head Rd ($68M) —Construct a grade-separated interchange at the intersection of the Fairfax County Pkwy and Popes Head Rd.
- Silverbrook and Lorton Rd ($500K)—Add a turn lane from Silverbrook Rd to Lorton Rd.
- Silverbrook Rd at Southrun Rd – Intersection improvements with an east-bound left turn lane.
- Silverbrook Rd Walkways – South side from Hooes Rd to South County High School; north side from Southrun Rd to Monacan Rd; north side from Silverthorn Rd to Bayberry Ridge Rd.
- Hooes Rd/Newington Forest Ave – Intersection improvements and an extension of the sidewalk.
- Rolling Rd Loop Ramp – Widen 1-lane ramp to two lanes at the Fairfax County Pkwy.
- Rolling Rd/Hunter Village Dr –New traffic signals including pedestrian signals and crosswalks.
- Sydenstricker Walkway – North side from Briarcliff Drive to Galgate Dr.
- Lorton Road Widening – Widen Lorton Road from Route 123 to Silverbrook Rd.
- Old Keene Mill Rd Walkway – Extend walkway from Carrleigh Pkwy to shopping plaza.
- Hunter Village Dr – Pedestrian improvements from Old Keene Mill Rd to Painted Daisy Dr.
- Rolling Rd VRE Parking Expansion Study – Study additional parking spaces at Rolling Rd VRE.
Route 1 and Mount Vernon Highway Intersection
Construction is underway at this problematic intersection which makes turning onto Route 1 from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway a nightmare. To solve this, the existing intersection will be realigned and widened. In addition, Mulligan Road will be widened from Route 1 to Pole Road. A second left turn lane will be added on northbound Route 1 to Mulligan Road, along with a raised median northbound and southbound. In addition, Route 1 will be widened from four to six lanes from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway to Napper Road.
POTHOLES AND PAVING
Because of the harsh winter season and all of the snow removal, VDOT exceeded its maintenance budget by over $190 Million! And in just two months, March 1-May 1, 2014, VDOT crews and contractors repaired over 146,000 potholes all over the state! But as you know, the potholes keep coming. If you see any roadway hazards near you, please report them to VDOT immediately. You can find the link to VDOT’s “Report a Road Problem” page on my website at www.davealbo.org.
Repaving Old Keene Mill Road
Judging from all the calls and e-mails, by far the #1 complaint in my district is the status of Old Keene Mill Road. I’ve been working hard with VDOT to get Old Keene Mill Road repaved as soon as possible. VDOT has accelerated the award of the contract and hopes to complete it by the end of the year (if not sooner). This is a $3 Million project!
Paving Residential Streets
Getting our residential streets re-paved is going to be a long journey, but we finally have a funding stream to begin the process. Prior to the passage of the 2013 transportation bill that I co-authored, there was not one single penny to pave a residential road in the entire state of Virginia. (Note: We were able to repave the Fairfax County Pkwy and a handful of residential streets using the unspent snow removal money from the warm 2013 winter). There is no leftover snow removal money after the 2014 winter, but fortunately, now that my bill is generating more funds for maintenance, we can start repaving some of the worst roads. If you believe your road is unbearable, contact me and I will get it rated for you. If it is among the worst, I will see if we can prioritize it.
 Note: 41% of the budget is education, 30% is health (comprised almost entirely of Medicaid), 12.4% is public safety/courts/prisons, and 5.6% is the Car Tax Repeal (money going back to localities to pay for the funds they lose due to Car Tax reductions). That leaves only 11% of the budget (about $1.87 Billion) for everything else that government does. So you don’t think I am making this up, you can check it on the Dept. of Planning and Budget website (http://dpb.virginia.gov/budget/buddoc13/index.cfm). If you don’t want to cut the government, then to cover these additional costs via a tax increase, you would have to increase income taxes approximately 9% on every individual that makes more than $17,000/year. So, a person making $100,000/year would have to pay about $500 more in income taxes.