Virginia Senate Makes Investments In Tough Budget TImes
Senator Majority Leader Richard Saslaw Highlights Strengths of Senate Budget and Contrasts Differences with Budget Passed by the House of Delegates
(Richmond, Va.) – Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) highlighted the strengths of Senate Budget Bills 29 and 30 which both passed yesterday in the Virginia Senate.
“The Senate faced an enormous challenge this Session – crafting a budget while taking $1.4 billion of revenues out of the two introduced budgets,” Senator Saslaw said.
“We are proud of the hard work of the Senate Democrats who pushed to pass these bills, despite strong opposition within the Senate. But, we regret that many of the important actions in these budgets have been overlooked – actions and investments that can be supported by all members of the Senate.”
Senator Saslaw was pleased to see the Senate and House were in agreement about the need to make investments to reform Virginia’s mental health system.
“Looking back at our last tough budget cycle, we continued to make investments even as we were cutting billions in revenue from our budget. We did in this budget as well, through our mental health initiatives. We’re pleased to see that the House budget supports these critical investments.”
Senator Saslaw emphasized that the Senate passed a fiscally responsible budget while still providing ample funding for education.
He also noted the Senate’s commitment to investing in early childhood education.
“The Senate budget demonstrates its commitment to invest in our youth to build a strong Commonwealth. The House’s budget lacks the same level of commitment but we’re pleased to see that the House agrees with the need for some additional investment in early childhood education.
“In the area of public education, the Senate budget fully addresses the costs of rebenchmarking the SOQ. We’re dismayed to see that the House has chosen to redefine the local share of cost, thereby shifting a huge financial burden to our localities, at a time when they can afford it least.
“The Senate budget also funds a meaningful salary increase while the House budget uses its own definition of the SOQ to pull back funds from one area and claim those dollars are a salary increase. This is a slippery slope that could put us back before the courts,” he said.
Rainy Day Fund
One of the most contentious points discussed during the debate on the budget was use of the Rainy Day Fund.
Saslaw noted the use of the Rainy Day Fund occurred in both the Senate and House, but differed on the House’s reliance on debt as opposed to using money from the Fund.
“This year’s withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund is less than the amount we withdrew the last time we faced a major budget shortfall. Both the House and the Senate budgets make a substantial withdrawal, consistent with the views of our citizens who approved the Constitutional change to create the fund.
“The Senate chose to use the maximum withdrawal possible in order to avoid the path taken by the House – to increase capital projects funded by debt and to pay a premium of $50 million for every $100 million bonded over the life of the debt,” he said.
Finally, Senator Saslaw noted that in order to keep Virginia moving forward it was important that the budget makes investment to keep growing our economy.
“In another area of importance to all of us in the Senate – economic development – our budget supports key investments to grow Virginia’s industry. Unfortunately, the House budget removes much of this new funding.
“There are other meaningful differences between the Senate and House budgets that will come to light. I’m confident that the entire Senate will recoil from these measures once they are fully understood.”