Senate Democrats Stand Up For Virginia's Families

RICHMOND – After long hours of negotiations and an extension of the legislative session, the General Assembly has passed a balanced FY2012 budget that calls for no new taxes.
Budget conferees worked late Saturday night to find a compromise between the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House of Delegates' competing budget bills.   The final budget gave Senate Democrats a victory in their mission to restore funding to the state’s core services.
"We could have capitulated, but we thought it was worth it to support funding to those areas of the budget that would have the greatest impact on Virginia families and help save thousands of health care and education-related jobs," Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania. 
The Senate budget, passed earlier this month, restored $100.6 million in funding to K-12 education, while the House-budget called for funding cuts. Budget conferees agreed to restore $75.6 million to Virginia's public school divisions and $16.3 million over the biennium above the introduced budget for higher education. 
Senate Democrats said the education budget compromise will help the school divisions begin to regain some of the ground they lost over the last several years.
"This budget compromise is more than just a victory for Senate Democrats; it's a victory for the children of the Commonwealth. The state cut nearly a billion dollars in aid to public schools over the last several years. Although the impact of those cuts will continue to be felt for some time, this budget is a step in the right direction," said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mary Margaret Whipple.
Budget conferees also agreed to add about $110.3 million to the health and human resources budget. The Senate's proposed budget added $114.3million to health and human resources, while the House budget called for a $37.7million decrease. 
Under the Health and Human Resources budget, $66.8 million will be added to the general fund for Medicaid provider restorations and appropriates $30 million to the Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Trust Fund.  
"The Senate's position on HHR was very clear. It is our firm belief that we must be advocates for Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens: children, frail elderly and the disabled.  We also saw this as an opportunity to support Virginia's small businesses which are largely represented by health care providers. So yes, it is Medicaid restoration, but it's a restoration of health care jobs," said Houck.
Senate and House budget writers also comprised on the House's plan to unwind the "accelerated sales tax for most retailers and to add funding to the "rainy day" fund payment reserve.
"This budget helped restore some of the massive cuts that were made to K-12 education and help for our most vulnerable citizens while increasing the fiscal strength of the Commonwealth. We're championing fiscal responsibility by putting millions into the "rainy day" fund and paying back some of the money that was borrowed from our pension fund," said Senate Majority Leader Richard "Dick" Saslaw, D-Fairfax.
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