House Passed $2.6 Billion Bond Infrastructure Package Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Mechanicsville) today issued the following statement on the bipartisan legislative agreement on a comprehensive, forward-looking bond package benefiting Virginia higher education, mental health facilities and state parks, House Bill 5001 and Senate Bill 5001:
"Today's approval of the approximately $2.6 billion package to better meet the needs of higher education, mental health care, and state parks today will be a major legislative accomplishment that meets many state infrastructure needs, promotes jobs creation and economic growth, and enhances the quality of life for all Virginians. The $1.9 billion for Virginia's colleges and universities - the largest ever capital infusion for our academic institutions - is especially great news for students, tuition-paying families and businesses that benefit from university research and wise investments in the knowledge-based economy of the future.
When the 2008 Regular Session adjourned six weeks ago, a team of dedicated Delegates and Senators continued to negotiate diligently to reach an agreement on six-year capital outlay plan. They worked cooperatively, taking a bipartisan and bicameral approach that also proactively included representatives of the Administration.
Like the original House plan, the final package fundamentally reforms the state capital outlay process by incorporating a business-like approach. It sets out a comprehensive, multi-year capital construction plan that provides greater accountability, prevents cost-overruns and supports higher education institutions' strategic plans. Equally important, the final agreement includes an emergency clause, which will allow 75 projects that are ready now to proceed almost immediately, providing an economic stimulus of $1.5 billion over the next two years.
For Virginia higher education, the final agreement creates more space for deserving students, which is needed due to steadily increasing numbers of students enrolling at our outstanding colleges and universities. The $1.9 billion in academic projects is important for economic growth and job creation - promoting research and medical breakthroughs, more construction jobs and a better return on investment for taxpayer dollars by including public-private partnerships that enable leveraging of private investments. And, the final agreement benefits from the House's commitment to tuition restraint that will keep college affordable for students from low- and middle-income families.
The final bond package also provides for the rebuilding of Western State Mental Health Hospital, constructs two new state parks, and constructs a new school for the Deaf, Blind, and Multi-disabled in Staunton. That progress in on top of the significant legislative achievements for mental health already enacted during the 2008 Session.
I congratulate Chairman Putney and his team of House conferees, their counterparts from the Senate, and the representatives of the Administration for working so cooperatively and productively over the last several weeks, and for producing a six-year capital outlay plan that represents a great value for all Virginians."