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Focus on Fairfax
Jan. 5, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy New Year!  With Winter Storm Grayson bringing strong winds to our already frigid weather, please stay safe and warm.  You can find some great winter weather resources by visiting the websites for Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax.
It is hard to believe that in less than one week I will be back in Richmond for the start of the 2018 General Assembly.  Not only will we swear in our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General - but we will start the session with a very different House of Delegates.  Based on today's random drawing by the State Board of Elections, and barring any further legal action, the House will consist of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.  While the House will not be tied, there will still be major changes since committee membership is proportional to overall party representation.  As a result, committees will shift from 15 Republicans and 7 Democrats to 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
Annual Fairfax Delegation Public Hearing This Saturday
This year we will be dealing with a number of significant legislative issues as well as the adoption of a new biennial budget.  Already, almost 300 bills have been introduced in the House alone - with literally hundreds more expected in the next week.  You can see bills as they roll in by clicking here.
I want your input!  Please watch out for my constituent survey in the next few weeks.  In addition, the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly holds a public hearing each year to listen to your priorities.  This year's hearing will be held on Saturday, January 6th starting at 9:00 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.  The hearing will begin with remarks from the Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  Anybody wishing to speak will be given three minutes.  Click here to sign up and for more information.  Please note that only Fairfax County and City of Fairfax residents may register.
You can also watch the event live on Fairfax County Government Channel 16
Biennial Budget
Virginia's budget process is a bit of an oddity in that the outgoing Governor introduces the new budget - even though the new Governor will be in office when it is considered by the General Assembly.
Governor McAuliffe unveiled his draft budget to the Joint Money Committees on December 18th. In general, we are in a much better place than last year when we were faced with closing a $1.5 billion budget deficit due to lower-than-expected revenue projections.  Fortunately, things have started to turn around.  The budget anticipates modest general fund revenue growth of 3.8% in FY2019 and 3.9% in FY2020.  This is still relatively low from a historic standpoint and reflects the lingering impact of the recession and federal sequestration.  Although unemployment is now down to 3.6%, many of the newer jobs pay less compared to those that were lost.  This situation has highlighted the urgent need for greater economic diversification, which has been a focus of both the Governor and the General Assembly over the past few years.
Here are some highlights from the Governor's introduced budget.  You can find even more details here.
  • Reserve - Increases the amount that will be held back in reserve to ensure that Virginia can weather any uncertainty at the federal level and maintain our AAA bond rating.  This includes $50 million in FY2019 and $221 in FY2020.
  • Education - Fully funds re-benchmarking of the Standards of Quality with an additional $436 million.  Re-benchmarking is the process of determining the total share of state funding for K-12 education.  This is different than the dreaded formula for distributing funding among school districts (which continues to be problematic).
  • Higher Education - Includes $217 million in maintenance reserve funding for infrastructure and security-related needs.  Additional funding is also provided for higher education operating costs, including much needed funding to George Mason University.
  • Metro and Mass Transit - Includes dedicated, ongoing funding to provide Virginia's $150 million share of the $500 million per year needed to stabilize the system for the long-term.  While I support additional funding for Metro, I am very concerned about the part of the proposal that diverts revenue from existing regional funding sources.  This revenue is used to pay for other critical transportation projects.  Plus, part of the deal when the General Assembly approved higher taxes in Northern Virginia for transportation is that we would have control over that money.  I will have more thoughts on this in a future Focus on Fairfax.  There is also $110 million in Commonwealth Transportation Capital Projects Revenue Bonds for mass transit in FY2020.  This will greatly benefit our region.
  • Solar Engery - Includes $2 million to support a revolving loan fund aimed at further developing the solar energy industry in Virginia.
  • Medicaid Waiver Slots - Includes funding to support 825 additional Medicaid waiver slots for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Virginia is under a consent agreement with the Department of Justice to invest in our system of supports to those with disabilities.
  • Mental Health - Provides $2.9 million to establish special units and programs for seriously mentally ill inmates as well as $1 million for the expansion of mental health dockets in high caseload jurisdictions.
  • Opioid Crisis - Increases funding to combat opioid addiction by $17.8 million.  According to the Virginia Department of Health, there were 803 deaths from fentanyl and/or heroin overdoses and 465 deaths from prescription opioid overdoses.
  • Salaries - Includes a 2% raise for state employees and the state's share of a 2% raise for teachers.
  • Medicaid Expansion - Expands Medicaid in Virginia, which will offer coverage to nearly 400,000 Virginians who are currently without health care.  Since the Affordable Care Act became law, Virginia has left $10.5 billion of federal funding on the table that could have gone to providing health care to our fellow Virginians.  This funding comes from taxes that we already pay.
Overall, I think that the proposed budget is a very positive step forward.  There will be lots more to report throughout the session as we get into the weeds.

Tolling on I-66 Inside the Beltway
Thanks to everyone who provided constructive feedback (some positive, but mostly negative) about the new tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway.  On December 7th, I joined 15 of my General Assembly colleagues (and future colleagues) in signing a letter to Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne expressing concern about the project.  The fundamental problem is tolling existing infrastructure as opposed to new lanes.  While there are plans to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector to Ballston ( something I fought hard for ), this is being paid for out of our general transportation funds and not toll revenue.  The argument that tolling should be used for traffic management without new capacity has huge implications.  This same logic could be applied to almost any congested road in our region.  The I-66 tolls have also been held out as only affecting HOV cheaters.  That isn't true.  Until this recent change, someone going eastbound could use I-66 inside the Beltway for free before 6:30 a.m. and after 9:00 a.m.  Now tolling spans from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. A similar situation is true for westbound in the evening.  For these commuters, a major transportation option has truly been lost.  At the same time, we haven't built any new infrastructure to help support carpooling or bus service for these individuals.  If the issue is enforcement, let's focus on that without punishing those who have used I-66 legally for many years.
One of the complicating factors with addressing the issue legislatively is that tolling inside the Beltway is linked with the contract VDOT entered into for expanding I-66 outside of the Beltway, which also has a toll component.  For example, a bill that I am considering is to move the HOV hours back to their pre-toll times.  However, this could trigger a "compensation event" where the contractor for outside of the Beltway could demand compensation from VDOT if the change in policy impacted revenue generating potential.  Right now I am actively working with my colleagues on possible options.  More to come during the session!
It is an honor to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, please feel free to contact me directly at (703) 310-6752 or if I can be of assistance.

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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District
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Fairfax Office
9900 Main Street,
Plaza 102
Fairfax, VA 22031
(703) 310-6752

Richmond Office
(During General
 Assembly Session)
Capitol Square, General Assembly Building
Room 402
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 698-1037
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