Augusta Free Press

House Appropriations Committee presents proposed amendments to 2014-2016 biennial budget

The Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations presented its proposed amendments to the 2014-2016 biennial state budget Sunday. The House budget proposal sets aside $99.5 million for a future rainy-day fund deposit, eliminates $10.2 million in fees and $42.5 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe, and provides funding for pay raises for state police, state employees, teachers and state-supported local employees.

“The House of Delegates is offering a conservative, responsible and most importantly balanced budget that wisely plans for the future while investing in our state employees, education and the healthcare safety net,” said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). “Setting aside money for the next required rainy-day fund deposit, eliminating onerous fees and unnecessary debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe and keeping our commitment to the Virginia Retirement System are the responsible steps Virginians expect us to take. I thank Chairman Chris Jones, Vice-Chairman Steve Landes, the House conferees and the entire House Appropriations Committee for their hard work putting together this budget.”

The House budget factors for a modest revenue adjustment of $408 million over the remainder of the biennium, as a result of a steadying economy and stronger withholding.

“Last year the House of Delegates led the way in taking responsible action to address the revenue shortfall and immediately balance the state budget,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “Because of our conservative budgeting and an improving economy, the House is now able to make targeted investments in our key priorities. We are providing our hard-working state employees, state police and teachers with well-deserved pay raises, we are paying cash for capital projects at our colleges and universities, and we are making investments to provide targeted healthcare safety net services to the neediest Virginians. At the same time, we continue to be conservative, eliminating debt, paying cash for capital projects and setting aside money for the next rainy day fund deposit.”

The House budget proposal rejects Governor McAuliffe’s effort to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and instead makes a $125 million investment to strengthen the healthcare safety net by providing seriously mentally-ill patients with psychiatric and prescription drug services, doubling operational funding for Virginia’s free clinics and improving access to community behavioral health services by creating two new PACT (Programs of Assertive Community Treatment) teams and five new crisis intervention drop-off centers. PACT teams provide coordinated, comprehensive outpatient treatment to patients with serious mental illnesses. Drop-off centers provide crisis-intervention services and are a holding place for individuals under emergency custody orders.

Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Steve Landes said, “The House overwhelmingly voted three times last year to reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion because it is the wrong approach. Medicaid is a broken system that needs to be reformed, not expanded. We cannot rely on the false promise of free money from Washington, and Virginia taxpayers will eventually get stuck with the bill. The House plan will provide targeted healthcare safety net services to the neediest Virginians. We are providing care for seriously mentally ill patients, promoting access to primary care services through our free clinic system and building on our recent efforts to improve community behavioral health services.”

The House budget includes a $153.5 million compensation package that provides state funding for a 1.5% state employee and state police pay raise and a 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees. The House budget also provides a compression adjustment for senior employees and $4 million in funding to rollback cuts to state police overtime.

“We are fortunate to have so many dedicated, hard-working state employees, especially the brave men and women who make up our state police force” said Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico). “Governor McAuliffe ignored these public servants in his budget proposal. The House is offering a pay raise, including a compression adjustment for senior employees, because our state employees deserve it.”

Funding is also included for the state’s share of a 1.5% teacher pay raise and a $190 million deposit into the teacher retirement fund. The $190 million deposit included in the House budget is $40 million more than proposed by Governor McAuliffe.

“Virginia has so many tireless and committed teachers who spend each and every day working to prepare our young people for the next steps in their life,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), a retired teacher with 30 years of classroom experience. “The House of Delegates has made a concerted effort to recognize and reward our hard-working teachers. This is the second teacher pay raise funded by the House in the last three years. Our deposit in the teacher retirement fund will make it more solvent for the long term. These are responsible investments in teachers who are educating the future of our Commonwealth.”


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