By Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights
The 2019 General Assembly just adjourned sine die Sunday. Over the course of the 46-day legislative session, the House and Senate considered thousands of bills on a wide range of issues. Despite the distractions taking place elsewhere on Capitol Square, the General Assembly was laser-focused on getting our job done in a timely and responsible manner.
State budget passed
The final action of the legislative session was the passage of amendments to the state budget. As is required by the Virginia Constitution, the budget is balanced and does not spend more than we bring in.
First and foremost, the budget eliminates $1.2 billion in new spending proposed by the governor. The budget includes no tax or fee increases. $120 million in healthcare savings are included in the budget as a result of lower than expected Medicaid costs and updated forecasting language.
We have included funding for a 5 percent teacher pay raise and $85.7 million in new funding for K-12 education. This is the fourth teacher pay raise in six years. The budget also makes targeted investments in our “at risk” programs; every student deserves a fair shot at an education regardless of their ZIP code.
School safety was a major priority for the General Assembly this year and our budget reflects that, including approximately $12 million in funding for school resource officers, infrastructure, and other initiatives designed to keep our students safe in schools.
In the higher education field, the budget takes a huge step
The state budget also includes a 3 percent pay raise for state employees. Our state employees are the backbone of Virginia government and often go without recognition.
Finally, the budget includes longstanding language that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions.
House Bill 2577,
Several of my House colleagues announced their retirement from the floor this week – Del. Dickie Bell, R–Staunton, Del. Gordon Helsel, R–Poquoson, Del. David Toscano, D–Charlottesville, and Del. Riley Ingram, R–Hopewell. I’ve enjoyed working with each of them during their time in the legislature on a wide range of issues.
As our districts border each other, Ingram and I have come to be good friends throughout the years. I’ll particularly miss his quick wit and humor. He’s been a force for good here in the Tri-Cities and will be sorely missed by the body.