Opinion — Differing budgets

Published 12:10 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

Much of last week, those of us on the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee spent hours into the evening working through the final budget numbers for every part of state government. These are the largest budgets in history. Not only has consumer and business spending and inflation produced record tax receipts and, as well, tax increases passed under the Northam administration, there were also significant amounts given by a federal government that expected greater fiscal impact from Covid.

With these extra dollars, everyone offered ideas of how to spend that money Sunday evening, the House and Senate offered competing versions of how best to deal with the budget. Those two budgets differ greatly. In the last weeks of the session, both sides will need to compromise.

Both budgets provide raises to government workers and teachers. Regrettably, those raises will be dwarfed by the inflation caused by poor policy decisions in Washington. Both budgets focused on the needs of economic development that is so important to keep our economy growing. We have lost several great economic prospects because we did not have building sites that were close enough to meet the time schedules of those prospects. Both budgets addressed that issue.

Likewise, both budgets included better funding for those involved in protecting our families and homes. Despite some still being focused on “defunding the police” around the country, a majority of legislators in Virginia are now aware of the risk of having demoralized law enforcement. This resulted in providing for the needs of the state police, sheriff’s departments, town and city officers and those that work with those within our prison system, regional jails, and parole offices. All provide needed services if we are to have a civil society.

POWER PLAYS

Now is the time of the legislative session in which personality issues can interfere with good policy. Hopefully, it will not carry the day, but each session it usually intensifies as the end gets closer.

This year, the Senate Democrats voted down a designated Secretary selected by Governor Youngkin simply because he previously had worked under President Trump. In turn, the House pretended to deny confirmation of hundreds of appointments made by Governor Northam during his final year in office. While they had no intention of doing so, the Senate Democrats screamed loudly and threatened to hold up the budget and any House bills.

All this saber rattling was for the news media; however, raising hostilities while we are trying to better serve the well-being of Virginians creates far more problems than it solves.

SECOND HALF OF THE SESSION

Just as ball teams change ends of the field after the halftime break, we do the same in the General Assembly. All legislative proposals that were introduced in the House and were approved by the full House are now before the Senate and vise versa. We must now work through the House committees with our legislation in hopes they will approve them.

My prediction is that those bills that did not have bipartisan support will not survive to be signed into law. I am fortunate that most of my legislation did have the needed bipartisan support. Only two were rejected on party line votes.

In previous columns, I have mentioned several of my legislative efforts. For the most part, my most important bills to me are those that can create good jobs to our communities around the state. This year, I carried legislation for the administration that helped attract large investments in Southwest Virginia and the Richmond area. Another would have helped more counties attract data centers. Other counties would love to have the capital investments made in their counties that Microsoft has in Mecklenburg.

Another bill was at the suggestion of Sheriff Roberts of Brunswick. He contacted me about the rash of catalytic converters being stolen by thieves. We worked with interested parties in law enforcement and salvage yards to get the best possible wording needed. The goal is to limit the ability of those thieves to sell those stolen converters. Some vehicles can be rendered inoperable until replaced. Replacing them costs thousands of dollars.

Other bills I offered were to assist local government and businesses that need relief from government regulation. Hopefully, the House and the Governor will approve them.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.