Two major calendar milestones occurred in the General Assembly this week. Tuesday was the halfway point of the 2017 session, known as “crossover”, when each House or Senate bill must have been acted upon or the bill is considered dead. Bills that passed the House are now being considered by the Senate and bills passed by the Senate are now being considered by the House. Also this week, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees unveiled their budget proposals and each chamber voted on its version of an amended 2016—2018 state budget.
This week I have presented the majority of my House bills to the Senate committees. Legislation I have introduced to combat the opioid epidemic in Virginia has been reported from committee and will now be voted on by the full Senate. Based on the current timeline, I will present my remaining bills to the Senate committees next week.
Additionally, the House passed my bill creating the Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority. With a new administration in Washington, our delegation has been collaborating closely with Congressman Griffith’s office, working to ensure this project is a high priority at all levels of government. The Authority would promote transportation improvements and economic development in Southwest Virginia.
This Thursday, the House voted on its version of the state budget. Our budget reflects the tough choices and priority-setting necessary to present a balanced budget following a $1.5 billion shortfall that was announced last fall. We reviewed all discretionary spending and held fast to conservative budgeting while investing in the core functions of government.
Investing in public safety and education have been top priorities throughout this budget process. Accordingly, the House budget:
• Provides $14.6 million in funds to raise the starting salary of Virginia State Police to $43,000. All sworn troopers will receive a $6,793 salary increase;
• Invests $7.3 million to provide a compression adjustment for employees in sheriffs’ offices and regional jails;
• Sends $218.7 million back to localities with almost no strings attached. This sends 40% of lottery proceeds back to local schools, which was the policy prior to 2010. With no requirement for a local match, these funds provide localities with the flexibility to invest where resources are needed, including for salary increases; and
• Establishes the 10-10-10 plan to support smaller school divisions with declining enrollment. That sends an additional $9 million to rural schools.
The House and Senate are now in the process of unifying both versions of the budget into a single proposal from the General Assembly. I will continue to advocate for a unified budget that makes strategic investments in law enforcement, public schools and educators, and making higher education more affordable while ensuring Virginia has a balanced budget. I will keep you updated as the General Assembly finalizes its budget proposal to send to the Governor.
Whether in the district or Richmond, my door is always open. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. While we are in session, you can reach me in my Richmond office at (804) 698-1004. You can also stay up-to-date by visiting my Facebook and Twitter pages as well as my website (www.toddpillion.com). It is an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates. Thank you for your continued support.