March 7th, 2016

As we indicated last week, this newsletter will focus on the budget. However, first the Roanoke Regional Chamber wanted to recognize two of our local delegates that were recipients of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce's "Champion of Free Enterprise Award" - Delegate Chris Head and Delegate Greg Habeeb.


The House of Delegates and the Senate have passed their respective budgets. The differences between the two budgets will be negotiated in conference and the conferees (negotiators) have been announced:

The conference committee will resolve differences and submit final budgets to both chambers for a vote. Final action should be taken this week as the General Assembly adjourns sine die on March 12th. Subsequently, the budget will go to the Governor for his approval. This week we wanted to focus on education, economic development and health care areas of the budget. 


The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) will benefit from many funding initiatives in the introduced budget. Highlighted are investments in cyber security training, post-secondary transitioning programs in Southwest Virginia and the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative. All session the Chamber has been focused on the Workforce Credentials Legislation. Accordingly, HB66 and SB576 continue to advance and the budget includes $12 million (House) and $13 million (Senate) for the credentials program. This initiative continues to be one of our top legislative priorities. We believe that streamlining the path to workforce credentials is critical to filling skilled jobs that are essential and needed by employers in our region.  

In addition to VCCS - Education in general is a major focus in both the House and Senate budgets. Both chambers have more spending for public K-12 and Higher Education than the introduced budget. Specifically, the House has added to the introduced budget with $70 million more to public schools and $66 million more to higher education helping to stabilize tuition rates.

We also strongly support Delegate Chris Head's budget amendment that would appropriate $100,000 for the establishment of a Regional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Governors School. A CTE Governor's school in our region would show businesses that we are serious about providing a skilled workforce to employers. 

We Advocate  for necessary enhancements to Pre K-12 and higher education to prepare all students for careers and all regional businesses with a skilled workforce.


As a result of appropriating more dollars to education, other areas of the budget were cut - economic development was impacted by the scaling back. Amendments from the House and Senate cut spending in economic development including $60 million for biotechnology spinoff companies and opted to not include the reduction in corporate income tax rates. However, not all economic development dollars were impacted:
  • GO Virginia regional incentive grant program was appropriated $32.9 million by the House and $38.8 million by the Senate.
  • $100 million for investments in commercially viable research initiatives
Another issue to be resolved by the conferees concerns the Airbnb legislation ( HB 812   and  SB 416 ).  The Senate adopted a  budget amendment   requiring that any legislation passed this session relating to the collection of taxes and the preemption of local authority regarding limited residential lodging cannot become effective until it is reenacted by the 2017 Session and a study is completed. The Chamber supported further vetting of the Airbnb legislation. Specifically, we are concerned the legislation provides special treatment not available to other lodging enterprises.  

The Roanoke Regional Chamber is also focused on budget items important to our region's economic vitality.  We have been advocating for the continued investment in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTC). Below is the letter we sent to our local delegation and budget conferees: 

The Roanoke Regional Chamber strongly supports continued investment in the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTC). The next phase of this integrated research network will be a bioscience addition -- the "Roanoke Health Sciences and Technology Innovation District (HST-ID)". Dr. Michael Friedlander, Executive Director of VTC, and his team of researchers have put our region on the map as one of the best brain research institutes in the world. Building on this success, Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic have committed $21 million in funding for HST-ID and are requesting $46.7 million from the state to support the construction of bioscience additions. Previous investments in VTC have yielded these successes: 
  1. The VTC School of Medicine will graduate the third class of physicians in May 2016
  2. VTC Research Institute has quickly become acknowledged as a world-class research center
  3. Created over 300 jobs and generated $400 million in economic impact to our region 
The successes of VTC have researchers across the nation wanting to come to Virginia to take part in this network. However, these scientist and researchers are on standby until the construction of HST-ID at VTC. 
I am writing to you today with the strongest possible encouragement to make sure that this project is included at the full requested amount ($46.7 million) in the final budget passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.  Funding this project will ensure we retain the return on investments achieved to date with VTC and continue to build on that success to make our region and State stronger and more competitive in the future. 

We Advocate  for support of the GO Virginia Initiative and results-oriented economic development policies that encourage regional cooperation. 


As expected, both Chambers eliminated the expansion of Medicaid in the budget by removing $3 billion in federal funds related to expansion. Both amended budgets replace expansion by providing additional general funds. The House and Senate also cut the 3 percent tax on hospital revenue that was going to be used to fund the state's commitment to the federal health-care expansion. The Chamber continues to support a constructive dialogue to responsibly expand medicaid in the Commonwealth.

On another health care note, Certificate of Public Need (COPN) bills HB193 (O'Bannon) and HB350 (Byron) were in Senate Education and Health on Thursday morning. The committee passed Delegate Byron's bill as substituted and continued Delegate O'Bannon's bill to 2017. The legislation would remove imaging services (MRI and CT Scans) from the COPN process. The legislation also creates the Virginia Charity Care fund to help offset the cost of providing charity care that impacts hospitals. However, we remain concerned that the financial impact on the hospitals will be greater than the funding the Virginia Charity Care will be able to provide.  The Chamber continues to believe that any reform should model the recommendations from the COPN work group to improve the quality and access to health care while also eliminating waste and abuse.

We Advocate  for legislation that promotes personal responsibility, incentives fee-for-performance care, improves the quality of health care while eliminating waste and abuse, and expands affordable health insurance options for employers. We support passage of the health benefit plan legislation in Virginia to help protect small and medium sized businesses.

The Campaign Corner

Roanoke Regional Chamber | 540-983-0700 |
210 S. Jefferson St.
Roanoke, VA 24011