ARLINGTON, VA. - On Thursday morning, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce hosted the Tenth Annual Legislative Breakfast
, sponsored by Nestlé. Business, government, and community leaders gathered virtually for a moderated discussion among Senator Barbara Favola (31st District), Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District), Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District), Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District), and Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (45th District). Nick Minock, WJLA/ABC7 reporter, moderated the program.
"This Legislative Breakfast serves as one of our community's key events to learn about what is happening in Richmond directly from our legislators," said Kate Bates, President & CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “We value our strong working relationship with our delegation, and appreciate all the work they do in the General Assembly and its importance to our business community, and all of Arlington.”
Members of the delegation agreed that the ongoing budget negotiations would likely produce the most important results of this year’s session.
“In a year of divided government, the place where we can make the most impact is the budget,” said Senator Adam Ebbin. “We need major investments in our mental health and addiction services, public safety and educator pay. The Senate budget has proposed a 10% increase over two years for teachers.”
“If you were to give a report card out in the legislature, because the budget is not finalized, I think you’d give it an incomplete right now because the budget has a lot of things in it that could potentially be a very good year or potentially not,” said Delegate Patrick Hope. “And so I think there are a lot of things at play.”
“One thing I’m very anxious about in the budget is where we’re going to end up in terms of affordable housing dollars,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez. “And we have so much need across the Commonwealth … for affordable housing.”
The legislators moved on to express concern about some of the tax proposals that are being discussed that could reduce transportation funding.
“I worry constantly about anything that’s going to affect transportation dollars in Virginia because it’s high on the list of things we’ve neglected for years,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan. “We’ve been making progress, but the fact that we’re making progress is not a reason to declare victory and go backwards.”
The conversation continued with discussion of issues that impact the workforce like childcare.
“In our region, much like we have an affordable housing crisis, we also have a childcare affordability crisis,” said Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. “And so increasing access to childcare is incredibly important for our workforce.”
The General Assembly members also addressed specific questions, including several asked by members of the audience, about a range of other issues, including housing and mental health.
“Our mental health system is woefully underfunded,” said Senator Barbara Favola. “They just didn’t accept more patients into our state-run mental health facilities because of staffing, so the state has to increase pay.”