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Thursday, January 8, 2009

House Republican Caucus Chair Nixon asks Senate Democrats to Adopt Legislative Cost-Cutting Measure

Delegate Sam Nixon’s News Release is below (and attached for reference.) Delegate Nixon has asks Senate Democrats to Join in Adopting Legislative Cost-Cutting Measures to help save money for Virginia taxpayers....

Commonwealth of Virginia
Virginia House of Delegates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Contact: Cynthia Haake (804) 745-4335

-- Letter to Saslaw & Whipple Requests Senate to Adopt House’s Lower Salaries and Per Diems --
-- House Republicans Already Have Enacted Reforms Resulting in $1.1 Million in Savings This Year --

RICHMOND, VA – In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senate Democratic Caucus and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), House Republican Caucus Chairman Samuel A. “Sam” Nixon, Jr. (R-Chesterfield) today asked Senate Democrats to match the salary and daily expense allowance of the House of Delegates. If the Senate were to enact these cost-cutting measures for the 2009 session beginning January 14, the savings to taxpayers would exceed $100,000 this year alone.

In a December 15, 2008 statement by Speaker of the House William J. Howell (R-Stafford), the House of Delegates announced reforms and cost-cutting measures for the upcoming session and year. Those savings total more than $1.1 million, representing 15 percent of the chamber’s operational budget.

The House has enacted spending reductions on multiple occasions and has aggressively held the line on spending increases.

In 2002, for example, the House reduced the size of its staff, and instituted cost savings and reforms resulting in a savings of $1.2 million.

In 2007, the House returned $2 million to the general fund, roughly 10 percent of its appropriated balance. This amount was in addition to the $4.7 million that other legislative agencies put toward balancing the budget.

In 2008, the legislative branch reduced discretionary spending to return another $4.7 million, representing 13 percent of the total legislative branch budget.

The text of Chairman Nixon’s letter to Senators Saslaw and Whipple, and a full list of the House spending reduction strategies announced December 15, 2008 by Speaker Howell follow:

January 7, 2009

The Honorable Richard L. Saslaw The Honorable Mary Margaret Whipple
Senate Majority Leader Chair, Senate Rules Committee
Post Office Box 1856 3556 North Valley Street
Springfield, Virginia 22151 Arlington, Virginia 22207

Dear Mary Margaret and Dick:

On December 15, 2008, the House Republican Majority unveiled its legislative spending reduction strategy for 2009. Fully enacted, the package of House spending reductions provides a total savings of over $1.1 million to Virginia’s taxpayers.

I suspect that the Senate also is examining its spending options and is looking for potential legislative savings ideas. In the spirit of bi-partisan and bi-cameral cooperation, there are two measures already part of the House’s savings strategy that, if the Senate Democratic Majority adopted immediately, would save Virginia taxpayers well over $100,000 this year alone. These savings strategies are:

· Matching the House members’ 2% salary reduction, in effect since 1991: As best we can determine, senators and delegates were paid the same salary until May 1, 1991. Although the House reduced the salaries of members through the Appropriations Act by 2% in 1991, the Senate chose not to adjust their annual salaries through the state budget and it is my understanding that individual senators had the option of voluntarily reducing their salaries by 2% for one year. The House has retained this lower salary level of $17, 640 for nearly 18 years (at a cumulative savings to taxpayers of $630,000). With the Commonwealth facing its second ten-figure budgetary shortfall this decade, now appears to us an ideal time to standardize the salaries for state legislators.

· Matching the House session daily expense (per diem) rate of $135: Foreseeing leaner times last year, the House set its per diem rate at $135, which is far lower than the maximum allowed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. By lowering the Senate per diem rate by $34 (from its 2008 level of $169 to $135), the Commonwealth would save over $100,000 this year alone. Obviously, expenses incurred during session are no different for House personnel than for our friends in the Senate. Both senators and delegates encounter the same hotel rates, the same food costs, and the same incidental expenses. Therefore, a differentiation between these rates based on legislative body makes little sense, especially during this recession in which those we serve and represent are struggling to pay their household expenses.

These changes can be enacted quickly. Doing so would send an important signal to the citizens of the Commonwealth. It would demonstrate that legislators in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly not only are willing to come together but also are prepared to lead by example during this time of serious economic difficulty when many Virginia families, businesses and taxpayers are tightening their belts to make ends meet.

I appreciate you considering these practical, cost-savings ideas. I also hope that you will soon join the House as partners in making these shared sacrifices and working with us in a bipartisan manner for the benefit of all Virginians.


Samuel A. Nixon, Jr.
Chairman, House Majority Caucus

Virginia House of Delegates
Spending Reduction Strategies for 2009

Ø Member Salary: Maintain current salary level at $17,640 annually. Prior to 1991, delegates and senators were paid $18,000 annually. In May 1991, delegates agreed to reduce House members’ salary by 2% to its current level. That reduction has saved the Commonwealth a total of $630,000 over the past 17 years.

Ø Member and Legislative Assistant Session Expenses: Forego without session expense (per diems) increase allowed by federal IRS guidelines. The current rate of $135 will remain in effect.

Ø Member and Legislative Assistant Orientation: Cancel legislative assistant orientation program for 2009 session. Postpone Committee Chair Training for members until after 2009 elections.

Ø State Plane: Suspend use of the State Plane for weekend travel home by members who live in Southwest Virginia.

Ø Conference Travel: Dramatically reduce the number of members and staff who are reimbursed for attending regional and national legislative conferences.

Ø Study Committees: Eliminate the use of study committees during the interim to study certain legislation.

Ø Carry Over Legislation: Cancel meetings for the express purpose of considering carryover legislation.

Ø Session Support Staff: Eliminate more than a half dozen support positions and reduce hours for additional four positions. Reduce hours for secretarial support staff. Postpone any wage rate increase for session support staff. Reduce training for various support staff.

Ø Clerk’s Full-time Staff: Freeze hiring for any and all vacancies. Eliminate any discretionary personnel costs. Create job sharing opportunities for full-time staff to cover eliminated session staff job duties.

Ø Printing of Stationery & Publications: Reduce costs by 15% by modifying internal procurement practices for printing. Review publications for necessity and print as many in-house as possible.

Ø Discretionary Projects: Postpone all discretionary projects, to include the legislative assistant e-mail initiative and renovation of office space to committee room space in the General Assembly Building.

Ø Office Supplies: Reduce office supply costs by 15% through the use of stringent purchasing policies.

Ø Office Equipment & Furniture: Freeze purchases of office equipment, furniture and food service equipment.

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