On Saturday, February 25, 2017, we adjourned this year’s “short session” of the General Assembly with passage of a modified budget. The revised budget places total General Fund spending for FY2017 and FY2018 at $40.47 billion. The final budget includes:
- Increases in two-year school funding for Charlottesville ($19.4 million in 2017 and $20.6 million in 2018) and Albemarle ($49.8 million in 2017 and $52 million in 2018);
- A 3 percent salary increase for state employees (effective July 10, 2017), a 2 percent increase for university faculty in the second year of the budget (effective February 15, 2018), and dramatic increases in starting salaries for state police;
- Partial restoration of funding for higher education;
- An additional $32.2 million to expand mental health services;
- Increasing reimbursements to nursing homes serving Medicaid patients;
- $1.3 million for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and a 2.5 percent increase in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits; and
- $100,000 to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in Charlottesville to identify and preserve history of formerly enslaved Virginians.
Our efforts to include money in the budget for solar development and for Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) have not yet been successful; we may have another chance at this at the April veto session.
The last days included passage of a number of pro-gun bills that I opposed and will likely be vetoed by the Governor. Included in these were a measure that relaxes the regulations for storing guns in foster homes, and a bill that allows carrying weapons into emergency shelters. It seems as if the Republicans want more and more people to carry more and more guns into more and more places. I will be happily supporting the Governor’s vetoes of many of these bills.
Minority Party Has an Important Role
If you are interested in the floor speech I gave in response on the role of the Minority in the General Assembly, you can see it immediately below or on YouTube.
Comings and Goings
As we return to Charlottesville to continue working with constituents, I would like to wish Carmen Bingham, my Chief of Staff for many years, a fond farewell. Carmen has been invaluable and will be greatly missed. We welcome Jane Dittmar as my new Chief of Staff. We are very enthusiastic to have Jane join the team.