Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Senate fails to pass House budget; sets up impasse

Below is an editorial from today by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the failure of the Senate to pass a budget.

The actions of the Senate Dems for purely political reasons are shameful. The consequences of their actions will affect every person, locality, and business in the Commonwealth.

RTD article below...

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Majority Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo on Senate Democrats Budget Impasse

Yesterday, Delegate Tim Hugo spoke on the House floor about how the Senate Dems are blatantly holding the budget hostage for political partisan reasons.

He pointed out how the House Minority Leader David Toscano is certain that Senate Dems are going to produce a budget "in due course."

Virginians can only hope that "in due course" means sooner than later.

Virginians can only hope that Senate Democrats don't hold the budget hostage until localities are waiting to fund teachers, firefighters, and policemen...

When is "in due course" Senate Democrats?

Majority Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo

Monday, February 27, 2012

Majority Leader Cox on House Budget

Last Friday, Majority Leader Kirk Cox spoke on the House floor regarding the budget put forth by the House GOP that was voted out 79-21.

He exclaimed that Thursday (Feb. 23) was a good day because of the budget that was sent over to the stalemated Senate.

Below is the Majority Leader's floor speech regarding an excellent budget.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Majority Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo Regarding Senate Budget Impasse

RICHMOND, VA - House Republican Caucus Chairman Timothy Hugo (R-Fairfax) issued the following statement this evening after Senate Democrats forced an impasse on the 2012-14 biennial budget:
"Today in the House of Delegates, we passed the House budget on a vote of 79-21. In the House, we've engaged Democrats to help craft a budget that addresses all of the issues important to Virginians. A strong bi-partisan vote count doesn't mean that the House Republicans and Democrats agree on every detail of the House budget, yet we discussed the substantive issues of our members and voted through a fiscally, substantively and structurally sound budget," said Hugo.
"Much to my dismay, the Senate failed to pass out a budget this afternoon. Instead, Senate Democrats brazenly abandoned their constitutional obligation to pass a budget. They did so to leverage the budget in exchange for better committee assignments than the rules of the Senate currently afford them. They did so notwithstanding the reality that they have taken hostage the tax dollars and services of every single resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia."
"Senate Democrats have put their political posturing ahead of the citizens they are elected to represent. Over the last two months, the General Assembly has passed hundreds of bills that address jobs, education, health care and public safety. Governor McDonnell, the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia have each crafted a budget, submitted in good faith, intended to serve Virginians through the end of the biennium. Despite our hard work, this session has been hijacked by liberal partisan rhetoric on a tiny fraction of bills. Now, Senate Democrats intend to obstruct the work of the General Assembly," he continued.
"I encourage the Senate Democrat Caucus - in the strongest possible terms - to stop playing partisan games and earnestly work toward a budget agreement."
# # #

Chairman Putney on House Budget Amendments

February 23, 2012

Statement of Appropriations Chairman Lacey Putney Regarding House Budget Amendments

RICHMOND, VA - Chairman of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford) made the following remarks today regarding House Amendments to House Bill 29 and House Bill 30, which govern the 2010-12 and 2012-14 biennial budgets, respectively:

"This afternoon we take up the Appropriations Committee's recommendations to the budget. I am gratified that our budget recommendation received a bi-partisan and unanimous vote from the Committee."

"With the input of the House, we charted several goals and principles that would serve as the framework for the Committee's budget deliberations."
"Crafting the biennial budget of the Commonwealth of Virginia is no easy task, and one that I know this Committee undertakes earnestly with the best interests of Virginians in mind. Since I introduced the budget some 8 weeks, we have conducted 5 public hearings across the state in order to receive input from the citizens on the priorities they would like to see addressed."

"Shortly after arriving here 40 days ago, I assembled the Subcommittee chairman and we began to discuss the direction the Committee would take in building the House Budget. We began our process by fully vetting the Governor's proposals and vision that he was recommending. We found much to agree with during that assessment. However, as I said to the House this past Thursday, 'Governor's propose and Legislatures dispose.'"

"Recognizing that the responsibility of adopting a budget ultimately rests with us, I knew that an integral component of a successful budget was to involve all 100 Members of the House. So, over a 3 week period we engaged in small group briefings in which members from both sides of the aisle participated in an in-depth discussion of the Governor's proposed budget."

"The first principle was that we needed to be mindful that although state revenues are beginning to grow, the rate of growth is well below historic trend growth of 6.0%. Furthermore, this rate of growth is less than we experienced in the two previous recoveries. For example, coming out of the 1991 and 2001 recessions, withholding grew about 8% and 7.2%, respectively."

"This Committee has made a priority commitment to the long-term structural balance of our finances. This budget will be no different."

"As required by the Constitution, this budget will include nearly $300.0 million in Rainy Day Fund deposits, replenishing the fund, which was used, as intended, to weather the recession. The Fund balance at the end of FY 2014 will be in excess of $600.0 million."

"Likewise, I also believe that it is imperative to ensure that we have adequate cash reserves on hand as we continue to emerge from the worst recession in memory. To that end, we will set aside a couple of reserve funds. The first is designed to meet any negative impact of federal budget reductions on the Commonwealth over the next several years."

"The second reserve fund will serve two purposes; first, as a revenue reserve in the event that our economy does not perform at the levels that we anticipate. If our economy does perform, then these appropriated dollars will be earmarked for a pay raise in the second year of the budget."

"The second principle we adopted was to provide help to our localities. While state revenues have begun to rebound, localities are still grappling with declining real estate revenues, a byproduct of a housing market that remains weak. Clearly, we all know that localities budgets are stretched thin and that they too are facing increased costs of providing services to our citizens. Overall, nearly 65% of local budgets go to pay their share of the cost of K-12 education."

"Our amendments will address local aid on two fronts. First, we will provide an additional $138.0 million over the amounts recommended by Governor McDonnell for inflation adjustments that are normally apart of the basic aid funding model, additional funding for the K-3 class size reduction program, and funding to expand the early reading program for 3rd graders." 

"The Committee amendments put up $28.5 million representing the state's share of this project. As a result of the federal government's decision, the Committee agreed to reprogram these dollars for other purposes."

"The fifth amendment in this package authorizes the Governor to make a commitment on behalf of the Commonwealth for the federal dollars to build the Veterans Care Center in the event the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is able to secure the funding in 2013."

"Finally Mr. Speaker, the Committee met again this morning to consider another amendment. As you know, yesterday the House Finance Committee adopted an amendment to SB 597 that clarifies that on-line retailer that have a physical presence in Virginia will be required to collect and remit the sales tax on such purchases. This legislation is part of an agreement with Amazon. Based on the fiscal impact, the unrestricted general fund revenue that is anticipated to be collect is approximately $8.8 million in Fiscal Year 2014. As a result, the Committee will put forth a floor amendment that will utilize to further reduce the Accelerated Sales Tax remittance by our retailers. Specifically, the amendment will authorize that the remittances of 90% of the previous June's collections will be prorated down in June 2014."

"Mr. Speaker, I hope this body will embrace the Committee's recommended floor amendments."

"In closing Mr. Speaker, the budget recommendations that follow will clearly and strategically focus our resources on keeping our promises to fund the core services of government."

"I hope it will be the pleasure of the House to endorse the Committee's amendments to House Bill 29 and 30."

                                        #   #   #

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Delegate Peter Farrell on his Louisa County Restoration Efforts

Last August, Louisa County was hit by the worst earthquake Virginia has seen in over a century.

Delegate Peter Farrell took an opportunity this afternoon to let the members of the House of Delegates know that Louisa County's local officials didn't sit around looking for a handout, but instead worked together to make due with what structures they had remaining.

Their hard work is being rewarded.

Delegate Farrell has a budget amendment in this year's proposed budget that will bring $2.2 million to Louisa County to help rebuild these schools.

Delegate Farrell's floor speech 

Delegate Mike Watson on Jeff Labs Support

Earlier today Delegate Mike Watson stood up on the House floor and explained why he he had wanted to run for office. He said it was with the hope that he would make a difference.

Well, today Delegate Watson was proudly able to tell the floor that his budget amendment was graciously included in the proposed budget. The additional funding he has requested will enable the Jefferson Lab free electron laser facility to buy additional equipment that will create upwards of 1,400 new jobs.

It's safe to say that Delegate Watson is aiming his emphasis this Session on creating jobs, growing the economy, and making a difference alongside the rest of the House GOP.

Delegate Mike Watson on his Budget Amendment

House GOP Budget - Public Safety

Yesterday, Delegate Beverly Sherwood spoke on the House floor about the importance of Public Safety and how the House GOP plans to address this area in the proposed budget.

Delegate Sherwood on Public Safety

Monday, February 20, 2012

House GOP Budget Plan - Economic Development and Health & Human Services

Last Friday, Delegates Steve Landes and Chris Jones unveiled how the House GOP plans to address the areas of Economic Development and Health & Human Services in the proposed budget.

Below you will find the floor speeches of Delegate Landes and Delegate Jones.

Delegate Landes on Economic Development

Delegate Jones on Health & Human Services

Thursday, February 16, 2012

House GOP Rolls Out Budget Plan

Earlier today, House Appropriations Chairman, Delegate Lacey Putney and Majority Leader Kirk Cox spoke on the House floor regarding the proposed budget. They explained how under House GOP leadership a very good budget is going to be presented to the Senate next Thursday.

The two laid out a budget plan that will address the core functions of government. This proposed budget will increase funding to local governments and public education while maintaining Virginia's stellar reputation as the #1 state to do business.

Oh, and by the way, this proposed budget will not have one tax increase.

Watch their floor speeches below.

Chairman Putney

Majority Leader Cox

Delegate Massie Helps the Children

HB321, introduced by Delegate Jimmie Massie, is the type of legislation that should garner attention from the media.

This piece of legislation establishes a tax credit for corporations who donate to non-profit organizations that provide education improvement scholarships to low-income, academically at-risk children. On top of that, it would improve public schools and save the taxpayers of the Commonwealth tens of millions of dollars.

This is what the Patron had to say about his bill:

Imagine a law that would: 1. enable low-income academically at-risk children to receive new and improved educational opportunities, 2. save state and local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year, and 3. improve local public schools.

            Sounds like a great opportunity for “bi-partisanship,” doesn’t it?

            That’s why Delegates Algie Howell (D-Norfolk), Tag Greason (R-Loudoun) and I introduced HB 321, our “Educational Improvement Scholarships” bill.  Our bill allows corporations to receive tax credits for contributing to foundations that provide K-12 educational scholarships to low-income students.  Recipients’ parents could then use those scholarships to choose the nonpublic schools best suited to their child’s needs.

            Our bill is modeled after Florida’s incredibly successful tax-credit scholarship program which now has almost 40,000 children attending a school of their parent’s choice. In Florida 75% of these children come from minority families with an average income of $26,000 per year.  In the past 10 years, Florida’s legislature has voted four times to expand this program; because they now know it works! Its last 2010 expansion enjoyed majority support from the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and all but two Hispanic legislators.

            The students benefiting from these scholarships are among the lowest performing students, and among the poorest.  The scholarships can be used only by students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and on average the recipients are only 17 percent above the poverty line.  A recent Florida Department of Education report noted, “Scholarship participants have significantly poorer test performance in the year prior to starting the scholarship program than do non-participants. … These differences are large in magnitude and are statistically significant, and indicate that scholarship participants tend to be considerably more disadvantaged and lower-performing upon entering the program than their non-participating counterparts.”

            These are the children that have had the most challenges in life and need the most help.  Their parents have tried everything and now feel boxed in.  Their children often need a different educational setting than a one-size-fits-all public school system can offer, and while our program is not a silver bullet, it clearly would provide new opportunities and new options for these students.

            But how does a “tax credit” save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year?

          Under our bill, corporations would receive a 70 percent state tax credit for contributions to K-12 scholarship foundations.  In turn, those scholarship organizations must spend 90 percent or more of the contributions on scholarships for low-income students.  Each time a student uses a scholarship, the state will save the full amount it spends on that child.

            In other words, a $100,000 donation will “cost” the state $70,000 in tax credits.  But it will “save” the state $90,000 in state education expenses. Additionally, local governments may save $6,000 per year, on average, per child that moves to a non-public school.

            This math works in Florida, and multiple studies demonstrate savings of more than $30 million a year.  In 2009, Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) estimated that the scholarship program saved the state $36.2 million.  In 2008, OPPAGA estimated a net savings of $38.9 million.  And the respected Collins Center for Public Policy concluded in 2007 that Florida had accrued nearly $140 million in public school revenues since 2002 as a result of the savings generated.

            Virginia’s State Department of Taxation agrees that “there would be some state General Fund cost reduction resulting from students moving from public to private schools.”  The only question they raise is whether there would be sufficient utilization.  Florida answers that question, too:  In that state, almost 40,000 students use a scholarship – with a waiting list of almost 10,000 children.  Since the inception of the Florida program there has always been more children applying for, wanting scholarships than there has been money raised to fund those scholarships. Utilization will not be a problem.

            And our bill goes Florida one step better.  In Florida, local property tax revenues are combined with state revenue, and localities lose control of their own funds.  In our bill, local school systems will continue to receive their state sales tax revenue and, if they so choose, be able to retain what they raise and spend locally – even though they will no longer have to educate a child that left their system.

            Perhaps most importantly, the Florida program has had a positive academic impact on local public school systems.  The December 7, 2010 issue of Education Week reported on a study of the Florida program for the National Bureau of Economic Research, noting that the “results show modest, but clear gains in reading and math test scores for students in public schools that faced private school competition through the Florida program. The closer to the nearest private school, the greater the public school gains. And for public schools having a larger number of private schools nearby, the effect was even greater, the study showed.”

            In short, numerous independent studies have proven that Educational Improvement Scholarships have given new and improved education opportunities to low-income, at-risk students, saved the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year and also had a positive academic impact on students remaining in nearby public schools. What’s not to like?

            Which is exactly the point! The primary purpose of any K-12 education bill must be to help Virginia students become better prepared for the demands of the 21st century, especially during these difficult economic times.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Ugly (Democratic) Truth

A lot of comments have been slung from the Democratic side of the aisle that the main focus of the House GOP has been on social issues.

In fact, that main focus amounts to a whopping 2.2% of bills that passed the House this Session...

In these difficult economic times, the House Dems have decided that THEIR MAIN FOCUS is to raise taxes and not focus on keeping Virginia the #1 state to do business.

The House Dems have said over and over this Session that they would GLADLY raise taxes on Virginians. The GOP Majority on the House Finance Committee prevented this from happening...


Subject Matter
Estimated FIS
HB 124
$0.20 tax on plastic bags
HB 145
Watercraft tax
HB 160
Cigarette tax
HB 393
Howell, Algie
Raise gas tax $0.10 per gallon
HB 419
Reinstate the Death tax
$  25
HB 422
Omnibus tax increase:  gas, sales and recordation taxes
HB 892
Gas tax
HB 983
Scott, J. M.
Gas tax
HB 1027
Gas tax
Unknown increase
HB 1030
Corporate tax
HB 1267
Scott, J. M.
Corporate tax



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

House GOP Guides To Half Way Point

Today marks Crossover.

Under the strong leadership of Speaker Howell and a diligent and efficient Republican majority, the House has done an extraordinary job in bringing bills to the floor that will better the Commonwealth.

Today, 200+ bills had to be voted on and the House was able to adjourn with quality legislation to present to the Senate in just under 2 1/2 hours (in contrast to days of Democratic rule when Session would run until after midnight...).

Tomorrow, Speaker Howell and House GOP leadership will be holding a press conference to discuss their accomplishments and their plan moving forward for the 2012 General Assembly Session.

You can find the event details at the link below.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Who's Being Divisive?

The VA House and Senate Democrats have made it clear - they're going to try and make the VA House and Senate Republicans look like the bad guys. But, hey, what else can they do?

Earlier today, the Democrats held a joint press conference where they did their best to denounce the House and Senate Republicans. Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Donald McEachin stated, "Republicans are so focused on divisive policies that they are hindering our efforts at progress, putting our kids' education at risk, and leaving them less prepared for the future. In the last four weeks, Senate and House Republicans have introduced hundreds of bills that target the poor, women, and immigrants, make it harder to vote, and discriminate against gays and lesbians. It's time for Republicans to put divisive ideology and raw partisanship aside."

They provided a list of "divisive" Republican bills that have been introduced and/or voted on. Of these bills, all that have passed either the House or Senate have had at least one Democratic vote. 

The House and Senate Republicans are not being divisive and will not be swayed by weak Democratic arguments about the focus of the Republican agenda. Republicans remain focused on the economy and jobs, education, government reform, transportation, public safety and mental health.

Earlier today, the Republican Majority Caucus Chairman Hugo and McDougle painted a clearer picture about the 2012 General Assembly Session (below).

Republican Majority Caucus Chairmen Hugo and McDougle give Progress Report on 2012 General Assembly Session

RICHMOND, VA –– House Republican Caucus Chairman Timothy D. Hugo (R – Fairfax) and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan T. McDougle (R – Hanover) today recounted the progress of the positive reform agenda being advanced by the Republican majorities in House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia.  Their comments followed a press conference held by the Democratic Caucuses of the House and Senate, at which the minority caucuses promised to “discuss the divisive legislation that has recently passed both chambers of the General Assembly.”
“Contrary to the assertions of our colleagues in the minority, Republicans working here at the Capitol have developed, passed, and now look forward to implementing legislation that addresses the issues Virginians care about: jobs, education, transportation, and government reform,” declared Delegate Hugo.  “While our Democrat colleagues remain singularly focused on a small number of social issues, we are enacting the reforms necessary to move Virginia forward.”
McDougle and Hugo both pointed to significant bills that have already been approved by the House and Senate, including incentives for expanding existing businesses, economic development grants for agricultural and forestry businesses, charter school enhancements, and the most sweeping government reorganization plan in recent history.  In the first four weeks of session, the Senate has passed over 300 bills while the House has passed over 380.  Only a handful of the bills approved were included on the list of bills legislative Democrats characterized as “divisive” at their media event.
“The irony of the Democratic mantra is that the bills they cite appear to have created the most division within the Senate Democratic Caucus,” Senator McDougle remarked.  “Democrats cite thirteen Senate bills that are still active, of which eight have received support from members of the Democrat Caucus.”
“The Democrats continue to focus on a handful of bills that have received extensive debate in order to divert attention from the extreme legislation sponsored by their members.  After members of their caucuses introduced legislation to study the sale of marijuana in ABC stores, to impose a tax on plastic bags, to abolish the Court of Appeals, to reinstate the Death Tax, and to allow convicted drug offenders to receive government benefits, it is little wonder want to divert attention.”
 “Fewer than 3% of the bills passed so far in the House are what the Democrats are calling ‘divisive’,” noted Delegate Hugo.   “The disparity between their talking points and the facts suggests they are at best wildly unaware of the legislation before them this session and at worst intentionally misleading Virginia’s citizens.”

Monday, February 6, 2012

Will the House Democrats Listen?

Last Friday Minority Leader Toscano accused the House Republicans of focusing almost entirely on social issues. In response, Majority Leader Kirk Cox reminded the other side of the aisle that the campaign is in fact over and that it's time to get serious.

Will the Democrats listen to Delegate Cox, cut the shenanigans out, and start working on improving the Commonwealth? Only time will tell.