Increasing spending on public schools

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

With only two weeks to go before the 2016 General Assembly session adjourns, there’s still a lot to be completed.

First and foremost, the House and Senate announced and approved their respective versions of Virginia’s 2016-2018 biennial budget this week.

The House’s version of the spending plan does not raise taxes or fees. It increases spending on our public schools and includes a new program to help students who pursue an educational program that results in credentialed or certified training.

It includes pay raises for state employees and teachers and puts over $600 million into the state’s rainy day fund.

The budget does not have Virginia join the Affordable Care Act’s optional Medicaid expansion plan.

The House of Delegates approved its version of the budget by a vote of 98-2. It is an impressive accomplishment to have the House approve a budget with such widespread bipartisan support.

Over the next two weeks, negotiators on behalf of the House and Senate will meet to iron out differences between the chambers’ respective plans. Don’t look for a deadlock or an impasse like the ones that occurred in 2012 and 2014, though.

The agreements between the two plans are much greater than the disagreements, making it very likely a budget will be enacted on schedule.

One of the challenges I’ve been working on this session is unique to our area. The Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation (VCBR) is located in Nottoway County.

When those who are committed to that facility are charged with additional crimes for their behavior at the VCBR facility, they are charged and transferred to Piedmont Regional Jail and Nottoway County is responsible for daily cost of these residents while they are housed at Piedmont Jail.

I’ve been working on a solution to this problem by trying to obtain special funding for VCBR to pay the cost of its residents while they are housed at Piedmont Regional.

I have successfully introduced a budget amendment that will prevent Nottoway County from being responsible for the cost of VCBR residents who reside at Piedmont Regional Jail. This will save Nottoway County over $100,000 annually.

We had a lot of visitors last week, including a large group representing 4-H. Alexia Cook, Cara-Mae Lomardino, Selena Yanoska, Scott Jones, Anna Easter, Jorden Dail, Kalista Cook, Leann Clarke, Darnae Jones, Russell Hazzart, Anthony Vega, Madison Rogers and Thomas Woodson from Amelia 4-H came by the office on Tuesday.

We also had Denn Alanic, Susan Howe, Chuck Arnanson, Donna Wilborn, Lindsay Page along with Phil Miskovic from the Town of Crewe and Jane Barnes from the Blackstone Chamber of Commerce visit. Lyncoln Polkabla, Nana Ofosu-Beneto and Caitlyn Madore from VCU Community Memorial Hospital paid us a visit on Wednesday.

We also had a nice group from Virginia State University, including Adrienne Harden, Mary Obielodan and Liz Hill. Lunenburg Sheriff Arthur Townsend stopped by on Friday.

With just two weeks left, there’ll be a lot happening. By the next column, we’re likely to be even closer to reaching a budget agreement and adjourning for the year.

I’ll have an update ready for you. Until then, have a great week.

Del. Tommy Wright represents Lunenburg County in the House and is a resident of the county. He can be contacted at