It may not have been "the longest day," but it was close to it as I gaveled the House to order at 1 p.m. Monday and closed the session at 1:54 a.m. on Tuesday. During that time the House voted on 107 budget amendments submitted by the Governor, passing 79 for Senate consideration. The Senate subsequently passed 74. Governor McDonnell has stated he will complete action on the amendments by the end of this week thus providing state agencies, counties, cities, and other governmental agencies the financial information needed to move forward on their budgets. Both the legislative branch and the Governor have worked hard to make up for lost time due to delays caused by the Senate minority's displeasure over the makeup of Senate committees. Our House leadership was pleased with the actions of all members who passed the first budget on time during the regular session with strong bi-partisan support and subsequently passed another budget with bi-partisan support that could be taken up by the Senate when they failed to take action on the original budget.
While the press was quick to note that several of the Governor's key amendments failed to pass, at the end of the day 72% of Governor McDonnell's amendments passed both Chambers. While the House has normally been very supportive of the Governor's legislative agenda, many members voted against some key amendments as the proposals had failed when presented as bills during the regular session or were considered inappropriate as budget items. I believe the Governor took an aggressive budget amendment approach in order to be as pro-active as possible on legislation to grow Virginia's economy and add jobs. I am pleased to report that both the House and Senate agreed to amendments that added $19.5 million to the budget that the Governor requested for targeted economic development efforts. These efforts will help create jobs and attract businesses to the Commonwealth. While House Republicans are committed to focusing on economic development and job growth, the House could not support all the Governor's amendments as they did not meet accepted budget amendment criteria.
We are all justly proud of what has been accomplished so far in regard to our economy and jobs. CNBC named Virginia America's "Top State for Business" giving the Commonwealth the highest point total ever, and Pollina Corporate rated Virginia the #1 Pro-Business State in America by the largest margin in the history of its study. Virginia's unemployment rate is now down to a three-year low of 5.6% which is well below the national unemployment rate of 8.1%. MoneyRate.com recently named Virginia the "Best State in Which to Make a Living." The positive economic indicators are no accident. Virginia's economy has continued moving forward because of the enactment of pro-job growth legislation consistent with the Republican principles of promoting free enterprise, keeping taxes low, and removing burdensome and unnecessary regulations.
I am confident the McDonnell Administration will be able to refine and improve the proposals put forth as amendments and combine them with new initiatives for the 2013 Session that will give us a solid blueprint for continuing with the economic success we have attained over the last two and half years.
All of these amendments highlight what can be done for the Commonwealth when working in congruence with the Governor. It is our job to ensure that Virginia continues to be the best state to live, work and raise a family. I truly believe that all the hard work the legislature has put in during the 2012 session has guaranteed that we close with a sound path for the future.
Prior to this special budget session, I received a good deal of correspondence from constituents on several budget amendments. I am in the process of answering them now that final House budget actions are complete. I also want to share with you some general comments on the amendments that created the most interest - please see the budget items below.