By Del. Carrie Coyner
This last week of session is known as “budget week,” where the House debated and passed its version of the state budget and the Senate did the same. The House budget includes a number of initiatives that I fully support and some that I don’t.
Last year the House Republicans led the effort to freeze college tuition in Virginia, and I am proud that the House has continued to put forth a budget that prioritizes college affordability by retaining that freeze in tuition for Virginia students. The Governor’s budget cut the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program targeting online learners, and I’m happy to share that the House budget reinstated that funding, which is critical to working adults and students at Liberty University.
The budget sets aside cash reserves bringing the ‘rainy day’ fund balance to a historic total of $2.2 billion. This set-aside is critical so that our state is in a strong position to weather the next economic downturn.
I was excited to see that the House budget included my amendment supporting the regional recovery high school pilot for students suffering from substance abuse disorders.
The House budget does not provide for a teacher pay raise to get us to at least the national average within four years, it only provides two two-percent raises (one in 2020 and one in 2021), which will result in a net-zero pay raise for teachers after health insurance and other cost of living increases are accounted for. While the House budget is better for teachers than the governor’s proposed budget, it doesn’t come close to preparing us to fully fund K-12 in the commonwealth.
The governor’s budget proposed to raise Virginia’s gas tax, collected at the wholesale level which means we won’t see it as a ‘tax’ on our receipts and the House budget added to the governor’s proposal regional transportation tax regimes. While I support regional funding models in theory, I couldn’t support it in a year with such a large tax already being proposed by the governor. With gas being so cheap right now, it is a convenient time to levy these taxes, but you will see an increase in our region of over 20 cents per gallon under these combined gas tax proposals, which adds up for working families.
Please contact my office at (804) 698-1062 or through email at DelCCoyner@house.virginia.gov, if I can be of assistance to you in any way. You can also follow me on Twitter at @CarrieCoyner or like my Facebook page to receive additional updates on my daily activities. If you’d like to receive email updates or learn more about me, visit my website at www.carriecoyner.com.
Editor’s note: Delegate Carrie Coyner represents the 62nd House District, which covers parts of Chester, Enon, Hopewell, and Prince George. She will provide regular updates in the Village News during the General Assembly session.