Thomas Jefferson, a conservative who like me would love the traditional character of our 97th district said â€œA wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.â€ My job as a state legislator should be defending the peopleâ€™s purse, preserving Virginiaâ€™s economic health and maintaining an effective yet limited government. I am honored to serve the people of this great Commonwealth.
This past Session and the upcoming Special Session beginning on March 27th will be about managing expectations and making difficult choices. The House Budget, which is the two-year budget for the upcoming 2006-08 biennium. This budget marks an important milestone in addressing the pressing priorities of the Commonwealth in a fiscally conservative manner.
This spending blueprint will upgrade roadways and alleviate congestion, improve the quality of our schools and our colleges and universities, enhance law enforcementâ€™s ability to keep us safe, provide quality healthcare for the mentally-ill and challenged, help restore the Chesapeake Bay among other items. We prioritized taxpayer resources and limited the expansion of programs to curb the cost of government. I am proud to announce that our budget accomplishes many things without a tax increase.
Virginiaâ€™s economy is strong. The hard work of Virginiaâ€™s men and women has resulted in a growth rate of 6-7 percent. Since 2004, cumulative new revenue growth produced $4.9 billion, which is 275% greater than the original forecasts. As a result of the largest tax increase in Virginia history that year, the cumulative effect of Virginiaâ€™s growing economy means that there has been approximately $4.9 billion in new revenue growth over the biennium, otherwise called a surplus.
The House budget balances our responsibilities to core services and continued investment in transportation with over $4.4 billion in net new revenue to meet these highlighted needs:
Public and Higher Education
Our schools provide a place where all children access an educational opportunity to make something of themselves in adulthood. For that reason in the House budget, we will provide approximately $11.5 billion in funding for public education over the next two years which represents an increase of $1.6 billion over the current funding level to include the cost of re-benchmarking the SOQ's, funding for a 3% teacher pay raise and an increase in the retiree health insurance credit. I am extremely proud that there has been such a significant dedication to public education this session. Moreover, the budget would invest approximately $419 million in additional general fund support for higher education to keep in-state tuition low.
The Assembly has also concentrated on helping those citizens who struggle with mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse challenges. Consequently, we will provide funding to rebuild the system and invest in local community services by directing funds for MR slots that give real world work opportunities. For parents of disabled children, the House approved language so they now have more freedom to do what is in their childâ€™s best interests.
Along with our reform legislative bill package, the House Republican-led budget also looks outside the box and approaches transportation in a comprehensive manner. The Senate and Governor frame the â€œtransportationâ€ issue in terms of crisis and then claim the subsequent need to raise your taxes. I believe that this is wrong. Indeed transportation needs to be addressed but not on the backs of hard working Virginians and the businesses that employ them.
In constructing this plan, our objectives include jump starting critical transportation projects through the dedication of $600 million in general funds for transportation projects. This proposal focuses on reducing choke-points and improving traffic flow. The second component of our plan will create a dedicated, ongoing funding stream for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Working to find solutions in these areas will keep our stateâ€™s economic engine churning. I believe that far greater damage will be done if we neglect these regionâ€™s needs, thereby hampering tremendous economic growth that generates funds that support priorities like education and keeping our local taxes low.
An important note is that with all of the good in the House budget, we have not taken away any funds from other transportation districts. Instead it builds upon the $850 million in new transportation funding made last Session, which was the largest infusion of new funding in 20 years.
Despite the common sense approach of the House budget, there are opponents. Most of these individuals focus their objections to the use of the bonded debt component to address the critical needs of Nova and Hampton Roads. We chose to use bonds to leverage approximately $100 million a year, for a 10-year period for those areas. Moreover, there are those who just simply want to raise your taxes. So if you don't want to pay more to buy a car, more to buy or sell a home, more for insurance premiums on your car, more to register that vehicle, and pay more when you fill-up at the pump, the House has the plan for you. Please join me in supporting a plan for transportation that addresses our state's needs without a tax increase.
I believe that all of our families have paid enough in taxes especially in light of Virginiaâ€™s record-breaking tax increases in 2004 and the resulting budget surpluses. Please know that I am fighting for all of us so we don't have to pay more.
I join my colleague Del. Frank Hargrove from Hanover and the rest of our House Republicans in our desire to conclude the peopleâ€™s business as soon as possible and deliver a sound and reasoned budget to the Governor. Don't buy into the "budget crisis" talk that is being floated by those who want to raise your taxes. Instead join me and let's fight together to see that the right thing is done by the people of the 97th District.
Please feel free to send me your thoughts at DelCPeace@house.state.va.us or call my office at 804-698-1097.