Noting the budget success
Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The Senate of Virginia has approved its version of Virginia’s 2016-2018 Biennial Budget by a 38-1 vote. There are no new taxes or tax rate increases in the plan.
It proposes spending $3 billion less than the governor. In fact, General Fund is 5 percent less than spending in 2006 when adjusted for inflation and population growth.
As I stated at the beginning of the session when I responded to the governor’s State of the Commonwealth speech, we would make education in our public schools a priority, and we would not expand Medicaid under the Obamacare scheme. We did, however, provide additional funding to increase Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, who serve our communities well.
The Senate plan provides a 2-percent pay raise for state employees as well as our teachers. The governor had proposed that raise a year and a half from now, whereas, the Senate proposal would go into effect in 2016.
I was particularly proud of the fact that we properly funded the workforce training program that I have been pushing for several years. As well, the budget funded the issue I wrote about last year, the Virginia Research Alliance, which will better focus the money that we spend at our research universities.
Because of my role as chairman of the economic development subcommittee of finance, we were able to better focus the dollars that the governor had proposed in economic development. That focus is in the realm of the Research Alliance as well as the Growth Opportunity (GO Virginia) proposal that will have better coordination between the private sector and the state.
My subcommittee also deals with natural resources, such as our parks, forestry and agriculture issues. I am proud that we fully funded the reforestation program as well as best business practices in those programs.
As we entered the session, we were all concerned that we would no longer have the longtime experience of Sens. Chuck Colgan, John Watkins and Walter Stosch (who is a CPA). However, it appears that each of us stood up to the task before us.
Our new chairmen, Sens. Tommy Norment and Emmett Hanger, gave good overall direction and each of the subcommittee chairmen worked through their portions of the budget.
All who have seen the budget believe the budget to be lean, conservative and fiscally sound.
I am honored to have been named a conferee on the budget. Because the House and Senate work separately on the budget, the result is that the budgets of the two bodies are different.
For the most part, we agree on the bigger issues, therefore, the budgets are very similar. However, there are many smaller issues that must be agreed upon in the next week.
Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia State Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.