SENATE APPROVES COMMONWEALTH'S TWO-YEAR BUDGET BY 38 TO 1 BIPARTISAN VOTE
RICHMOND, VA, 25 FEBRUARY 2016: The Senate of Virginia today approved its version of Virginia's 2016-2018 Biennial Budget, Senate Bill 30 (SB 30) by a bipartisan vote of 38 to 1.
The Senate's version of the state's two-year spending plan is structurally balanced, reduces state-supported debt, and trims discretionary spending.
The Senate's approved budget is $3 billion less than the proposal introduced by Governor McAuliffe. There are no new taxes or tax rate increases in the plan. The focus on lean budgeting and slow growth in discretionary spending continues a decade-long trend. General fund expenditures have actually decreased by 5% over the last decade when adjusted for population growth and inflation.
The Senate plan provides additional funding to increase Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, but does not include Governor McAuliffe's proposal to adopt the federal Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion scheme.
Prioritizing education, SB 30 increases funding to K-12 public schools and provides the state's share of funding for a 2% teacher pay raise that would begin before year's end.
Economic growth, workforce development, and job creation have all received special attention in the Senate's budget proposal. GO Virginia, the initiative to encourage regional cooperation between business, education, and government entities received nearly $39 million in funding in SB30. New workforce development initiatives received $23 million, including a new program providing tuition assistance to students seeking credentialed or certified education in high-demand fields.
The Senate plan provides a 2% pay raise for state employees. To aid in the retention of experienced law enforcement personnel, it includes funding to address salary compression for sheriffs' deputies and the Virginia State Police. Unique among the budgets proposed this session, SB 30 also includes a salary initiative to increase compensation for deputy district court clerks.
"The strong bipartisan support for this spending plan proves that it meets our obligations while being fiscally responsible," noted Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City), Co-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "Today, the Senate advanced a budget that is lean, conservative, and fiscally sound."
"The members of the Finance Committee worked diligently to craft a budget that addresses the challenges facing the Commonwealth," said Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. (R-Augusta), Co-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "The bill earned unanimous support in the Finance Committee and strong bipartisan support from the entire Senate today. I am confident our conferees will do an outstanding job of advocating this plan when we meet with our House counterparts."
The Senate also named its conferees to the Committees of Conference on House Bills 29 and 30 today. In additiona to Senators Hanger and Norment, Senators Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), Stephen D. Newman (R-Bedford), Frank M. Ruff, Jr. (R-Mecklenburg), Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), and Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) will represent the Senate in budget negotiations with the House of Delegates.