Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 General Assembly Update: Week 7

The Pogge Post

2014 General Assembly Update: Week 7

96th District, Virginia House of Delegates     February 21, 2014
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During Session:

General Assembly Building

Room 403

Capitol Square

Richmond, VA 23219



Please send mail to:

P.O. Box 196

Norge, VA 23127
Legislative Aide
Amanda Johnston
With only fifteen days remaining in the 2014 General Assembly session, much of the legislative work has been completed. Yesterday, however, marked a lengthy floor session as the House and Senate finalized and passed their respective budgets. As expected, the rhetoric was extensive, and each chamber produced very different versions of the budget.

The hard work now falls to a handful of legislators who will be tasked with working out the differences between the two budgets and crafting a compromise on which both the House and Senate can agree. The budget conferees consist of Republican and Democratic legislators from both the House and the Senate. During the next two weeks they will work toward the goal of completing a budget by the date on which the General Assembly adjourns sine die, March 8.

Due to the vastly different versions of the budget that were passed by each chamber, most people do not expect an agreement to be reached by March 8. Unfortunately, Virginia appears to be headed for a budget standoff.
Medicaid Expansion
At issue is Medicaid expansion. During the 2013 General Assembly session, the House and Senate agreed to establish the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC).  Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that reforms must be implemented prior to considering Medicaid expansion, and the MIRC was tasked with developing and approving reform proposals.  Last year, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate agreed to a process that removed Medicaid expansion from the budget.

Medicaid reform and expansion must be debated on their own merits, and the House Republicans do not believe in tying the passage of the budget to Medicaid expansion. The Commonwealth's budget supports public safety, transportation, and education. Funding for these core services should not be jeopardized, and I am disappointed that Washington-style politics have infected Richmond.
House Budget Overview
I am pleased with the budget passed by the House of Delegates, and I believe that the proposal is fiscally responsible and supportive of the core functions of government. Over the past seven years, Virginia's general fund spending has grown at a rate of less than one percent, and I believe the Commonwealth benefits from this conservative approach. Following are a few brief highlights from the House budget:
  • As required by the Virginia Constitution, this year's budget includes nearly $243 million in Rainy Day Fund deposits. Virginia's Rainy Day Fund is used to help the Commonwealth weather an economic downturn.
  • Included in the House budget is increased funding of $530 million for K-12 education.
  • To address the need for stronger mental health services, the budget includes $24.3 million for community-based mental health services. 
Unfortunately, the funding allocated in this budget remains in peril. Because the General Assembly Democrats insist on implementing Medicaid expansion via the budget, gridlock seems likely. Because Virginia's fiscal year begins anew on July 1, legislators have only a few months to resolve differences. Regrettably, the longer the General Assembly takes to finalize the Commonwealth's budget, the more challenging it becomes for local governments to draft and adopt their budgets. Local governments' fiscal years also begin in July, but they cannot make accurate financial projections without first knowing the Virginia budget.
Visitors in the General Assembly Building
Earlier this week, a number of visitors joined me for District Day here in Richmond. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to host guests from the 96th District, and I appreciate all who traveled to Richmond for the day. I especially thank House Speaker William Howell for taking the time to speak to the group. 
Please stop by the office!
As a reminder, if you are visiting Richmond, please stop by my office in Room 403 of the General Assembly Building. Guests are always welcome.
Delegate Brenda Pogge

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Brenda Pogge for Delegate | P.O. Box 196 | Norge | VA | 23127

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