House Highlights $1.8 Billion Bond Initiative

Bi-Partisan Package Includes Funding for Higher Education, Parks & Mental Health Care"Business-like Approach" with Over 100 Building Projects Key Parts of New 6-year Capital Plan

Providing for the mental health, research and anticipated enrollment needs of Virginia's burgeoning student population, as well as adding an immediate stimulus to the state’s economy, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) today praised members of the House Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Delegate Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), for their outstanding work on House Bill 1547, the 21st Century Capital Improvement Program for Virginia Higher Education, Mental Health and State Parks. Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Mechanicsville) is a co-patron of this important measure.

Delegate Peace stated, "Passage of this measure will impact every resident of the 97th District and the Commonwealth. Extending the bond package beyond the Governor's proposed higher education to include metal health and state parks will serve to address many needs in the state."

"Last December, the Governor announced his bond package and, while a good start, it was focused on higher education only," Speaker Howell noted. "Chairman Putney set a goal of producing a truly comprehensive bond package that includes not just addressing the infrastructure needs of Virginia's colleges and universities, but also rebuilding our state's mental health facilities and expanding opportunities to enjoy our Commonwealth’s natural beauty and resources. With this proposal, he and the Committee he leads have met – and in many important ways exceeded – that goal."

"The House plan includes much-needed funding to jump start critical projects in higher education, provides for the rebuilding of Western State Mental Health Hospital, and constructs two new state parks. And, the entire package is fiscally responsible, representing real value for Virginia and Virginians."

The plan includes an extensive list of projects for Virginia's higher education system, the bulk of which are geared toward increasing capacity and improving academic research. Virginians system of community colleges will benefit from the package, as well.

Comprising 65 projects, the plan provides for an economic stimulus of $1.2 billion over the next two years. Another 30 projects with construction values estimated at $600 million are approved for preplanning in 2010.

Chairman Putney stressed the "business-like" approach to crafting a 6-year capital plan. The package features extensive preplanning, which will provide for greater accountability and better cost estimates, resulting in projects being completed sooner.

"Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty," Delegate Putney observed. "I am an optimist, and I saw an opportunity to fundamentally begin to change the way we look at capital construction in Virginia. By embracing a long-range approach, we have brought sound business practices to this process and increased the accountability in how we spend the people’s money."

"I commend Governor Kaine, Speaker Howell and Chairman Putney for their leadership in putting forward ideas to find billions of dollars for higher education construction," said House Minority Leader Delegate Ward L. Armstrong (D-Henry). "We look forward to working with House Republicans on this important legislation."

"The 21st Century Capital Improvement Program in House Bill 1547 is the best example I have seen in my tenure in the House of Delegates of working for a bi-partisan solution to address the needs of the Commonwealth," said Delegate Shephen C. Shannon (D-Fairfax). "Governor Kaine made investing in higher education a top priority and legislators from both sides of the aisle have been taking the initiative and working to make this a reality. I want to thank Chairman Putney for putting together a common sense, business approach to capital construction. Not only are the immediate needs of higher education addressed, but we now have an objective tool to evaluate capital requests and needs."