House, Senate budget conferees announce conference report agreement

virginiaHouse and Senate budget negotiators have completed work on the budget conference reports for House Bill 1500, Senate Finance Co-Chairs Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City) and Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. (R-Augusta) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) announced Wednesday.

Under the procedural resolution agreed to by both chambers, final votes on the conference reports are expected on Friday. The conference reports will be posted this afternoon between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.

“Budget negotiators have completed their work ahead of schedule again for the third consecutive year,” said Senate Majority Leader Norment.  “Since the summer, House and Senate Republican leadership took decisive action to eliminate the shortfall.  Now, we have successfully delivered a fiscally responsible package of amendments to the biennial budget.  I am confident this agreement will earn strong bipartisan support, and want to thank the House for their strong efforts this session.”

“The conference report represents a bipartisan and bicameral agreement on Virginia’s priorities. We are investing in the core functions of state government while carefully guarding taxpayer resources,” said Chairman Jones. “We began our discussions very early in the process this year, meeting frequently with leaders in our chambers and seeking to reach agreement and consensus wherever possible. The results of these efforts could not be more positive. The House and Senate for the third straight year produced a conservative, responsible, and balanced state budget ahead of schedule. I look forward to both chambers accepting the conference report.”

“This conference report responsibly addresses the challenges facing the Commonwealth, prioritizes funding for our schools and public safety professionals, and is fiscally conservative,” said Co-Chairman Hanger.  “Crafting a budget requires all sides to forge compromises to ensure we fulfill our constitutional obligations.  The conferees took that responsibility very seriously, and the budget we have produced is testimony to their commitment to the Commonwealth and their colleagues.”

“While Washington drowns in debts and is mired in gridlock, the Republican-led General Assembly has produced a conservative budget ahead of schedule for the third time in a row,” said House Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta). “We continue to chart a prudent fiscal course for Virginia. The investments in education, health care and public safety will improve the lives of our citizens and make Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

2016-2018 Amended Budget Proposal Conference Report

Key Takeaways

  • The conference budget is a conservative, responsible, and structurally-balanced budget; general fund spending has decreased by 5% over 10 years when adjusted for population and inflation
  • Exceeds the Governor’s investment in K-12 education by approximately $18 million while increasing flexibility for local schools and reducing tax burden on local government
  • Invests in higher education by reducing the Governor’s cuts by $20 million, ensuring no school has a reduction that exceeds 1.5% of education & general
  • Makes strategic and targeted investments in economic development while emphasizing accountability and oversight
  • Funds a comprehensive package to combat domestic violence, including additional funding for prevention, treatment and counseling services
  • Builds on previous efforts to strengthen the health care safety net, creating new additional waiver slots, and expands access to mental health services.
  • Invests in Virginia’s hardworking state employees by providing a 3% pay raise and invests in our State Police by providing a salary increase.
Public Safety
  • Provides $14.6 million in funds to raise the starting salary of Virginia State Police to $43,000. All sworn troopers will receive a $6,793 salary increase.
  • Provides funds to raise the starting salary of the Division of Capitol Police to $42,750. All sworn personnel will receive a $4,355 salary increase
  • $7.3 million is given to provide a compression adjustment for employees in sheriffs’ offices and regional jails.
  • $1.2 million to restore funding for a special operations division for State Police.
Flexibility in K-12 Education
  • The conference budget proposal exceeds the Governor’s investment in K-12 education by nearly $13 million, but gives localities much needed flexibility by re-establishing the lottery proceeds distribution.
  • Invests $15 billion for direct aid to public education.
  • Re-establishes the lottery proceeds distribution, sending $191.3 million back to localities with almost no strings attached.  This sends 35% of lottery proceeds back to local schools, which was the policy prior to 2010.
  • Establishes the 5-5-20 plan to support smaller school divisions with declining enrollment. That sends an additional $7.3 million to rural schools.
Making College More Affordable
  • The conference budget proposal builds on our continued effort to make college more affordable for Virginia families and includes $20 million more than Governor McAuliffe proposed for higher education funding.
  • Restore full funding to Virginia Tech Extension and VIMS
  • No reductions to Norfolk State University and Virginia State University
Economic Development
  • The conference budget funds strategic and targeted investments in economic development, while promoting increased accountability and oversight in coordination with our legislative priorities.
  • Restores $7.5 million in funds to GO Virginia that was cut by Governor McAuliffe
  • Restores $4 million to the INOVA Research Parternship
Combatting Domestic Violence
  • The conference budget complements the General Assembly’s legislative efforts to prevent and combat domestic violence.
  • Includes $1.5 million to expand domestic violence prevention, treatment and counseling programs and services for women and children.
  • Allows draw-down of $6 million in federal funding match
Stronger Healthcare Safety Net
  • The conference budget does not include Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and restores the Stanley amendment that prohibits the Governor from expanding Medicaid without consent of the General Assembly.
  • The conference budget invests $32.2 million to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding for substance abuse treatment, and increases eligibility for the GAP program to 100% of FPL, which will cover 3,000 individuals.
  • Creates 144 new DD waiver slots.
Investing in Our State Employees
  • Includes $83.1 million for a 3% pay raise for state employees and college faculty. The Governor’s budget proposal provided a 1.5% bonus.
  • The budget also sets aside funds to implement the findings and recommendations of Speaker Howell’s Commission on State Employee Retirement Security and Pension Reform.
    • $200,000 for JLARC to complete a total compensation study of all state employees
    • $140,000 for state agencies to incorporate succession planning in their agency strategic plans
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