Posted by MAXIMUS
March 15, 2009 Newsletter
The General Assembly ended the 2009 Session on time by passing a $77 Billion budget. Despite some federal assistance, layoffs and deep cuts to core services were necessary to balance the budget.
In December Governor Kaine announced that Virginia was facing a $2.9 Billion shortfall. Just two months later, revenue projections indicated that the shortfall had grown to $3.7 Billion.
A slumping economy and dismal tax collections across America hit Virginia equally as hard. Cuts across the board left no area of government unharmed. K-12 Education, Higher Education and Public Safety combined for hundred of millions of dollars in cuts.
The federal stimulus plan approved by Congress last month sent $1.5 Billion to Virginia but left little discretion as to how the money could be applied. My Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee and I have urged over the years that Virginia follow a key guiding principle in sound budgeting, which is that stimulus money should be spent only on one-time programs that will truly improve our economy and not be used for re-occurring expenses. This year’s federal stimulus package should be handled no differently.
In budgeting matters above all else, Virginia's long-term fiscal integrity should be our priority. What was spared this year will most certainly be on the chopping block next year. While we showed considerable fiscal restraint in 2009, we will have to work harder in 2010 in anticipation of a bleaker financial outlook. We have an obligation to the taxpayers in the spirit of good government to continue to make tough decisions that Government living within its means.
With the Session over and that I have headed back home to Virginia Beach, I encourage you to continue to give me your input on the issues that you care about most. You can reach me in the district office by phone at (757) 486-5700 or by email at email@example.com. With warm and personal regards, I remain
Very truly yours,
Key Provisions of the Approved Budget*
Taxes and Budgeting
—Uses $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money to restore many of the cuts to core services such as education, health care and public safety that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine made in December.
—Changes the remittance schedule for retailers with $1 million or more in monthly taxable sales from a calendar month to one that begins the 16th of each month, which will result in a one-time yield estimated at $98 million when it begins in 2010.
—Restores funding for school support staff such as janitors, secretaries and school nurses, but requests that the state Board of Education review staffing standards for teaching and support staff.
—Restores money for school construction projects and operating costs.
—Provides $126.7 million in federal funds to offset reductions at the state's public colleges and universities, which is intended to keep tuition increases minimal.
—Increases student financial aid by 8.5 percent at a cost of $10 million.
—Fully restores the state's share of funding to sheriffs, local police departments and all constitutional officers in cities and counties.
—Uses states funds and federal stimulus money to provide $2 million for Virginia's two Internet Crimes Against Children task forces.
—Authorizes a behavioral corrections program that allows judges to suspend a portion of an inmate's sentence if he or she completes a two-year substance abuse program. Only nonviolent, lower risk offenders are eligible.
—Creates a legislative committee to study steps to control the growing prison population, particularly through early release and electronic monitoring programs.
Health and Human Resources
—Restores about $150 million in cuts to the Medicaid program.
—Restores 200 eliminated waivers to help families pay to care for mentally disabled family members at home or in the community as opposed to in a state hospital, and adds 200 more.
—Maintains funding for community health centers and free clinics.
—Restores money to continue operating the Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake, the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents in Staunton and the adolescent unit at Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institutes.
—Restores funding for the state's three poison control centers.
—Provides $749.1 million for construction projects on college campuses and others already authorized.
—Provides $12.5 million for the governor to use to recruit businesses to Virginia.
Provides $2.5 million to promote in-state tourism.
—Requires the Secretary of Transportation to provide details on projects funded through an estimated $800 million in federal stimulus money designated for highway and transit use.
*Click here for the 3/1/09 Wavy.com article entitled, “Key points of the approved Va. budget.”
Highlights of Bills Enacted During the 2009 Session*
—Expanded the death penalty to include those who assist in a murder but don’t do the actual killing and those who kill an on-duty fire marshal or auxiliary police officer.
—Smoking ban in Virginia restaurants and bars except for rooms with separate ventilation systems or outdoor patio areas.
—Ban on reading or sending text messages or e-mails while driving.
—The board of SPSA, the regional trash agency, would be appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and the state would require tighter controls on its finances.
—Would bar payday lenders from offering different types of loans in an effort to get around tough new restrictions placed on the short-term, high-interest loans last year.
—Courts could suspend the driver’s licenses of teens who miss 10 consecutive days of school.
—Would allow holders of concealed carry permits to take hidden guns into restaurants as long as they do not drink alcohol. Currently, guns are allowed in restaurants only if they are out in the open.
—Anti-blight measure would allow cities to offer tax abatement incentives to prod people to renovate or demolish vacant, boarded-up houses.
—Authorized the city of Chesapeake to proceed with emergency replacement of the Jordan Bridge.
*Click here for the 3/1/09 Virginian-Pilot article entitled, “Va.’s $77B budget spared major cuts, Assembly adjourns.”
Monday, March 16, 2009
Posted by MAXIMUS