Over the next seven weeks, I’m going to highlight 51 unique accomplishments by the Republican-led House of Delegates. I’ll be sending weekly emails about our successful efforts, as well as daily posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
The 2019 General Assembly Session produced a stark contrast for Virginia. The controversies of the Democratic statewide office holders have led to chaos and embarrassment for our state. On the other hand, the Republican-led General Assembly has delivered leadership and results on the issues that matter most.
#1 – Tax Relief for Virginia Families
The most important issue this session was tax relief.
The Republican General Assembly passed, and the governor has now signed, a $1 billion tax relief package, the most significant tax relief plan in at least 15 years and the second largest tax cut in Virginia history.
The tax relief plan prevents a nearly $1 billion tax increase proposed by the governor, and gives that money back to taxpayers.
The plan will provide $420 million in tax refunds to Virginia taxpayers later this year. This means individuals will receive up to $110 and couples will receive up to $220!
The standard deduction will increase by 50 percent, providing another $173 in tax relief to a married couple, bringing the two-year tax relief total to $393 for a Virginia family. This is meaningful tax relief.
#2 – Pay Raise for Teachers
In addition to tax relief, the budget passed by the General Assembly includes funding for a five percent teacher pay raise and and $85.7 million in new funding for K-12 education.
This is the fourth teacher pay raise in six years.
Our teachers work hard and often end up spending their own money on things like decorating classrooms just to make sure students can learn in an inviting environment. This pay raise is an investment in our teachers and shows them their hard work is needed and appreciated.
The budget also makes targeted investments in our “at risk” programs because every student deserves a fair shot at an education regardless of their zip code.
To all teachers, thank you for your hard work and dedication!
#3 – Passed a Conservative and Balanced Budget
The final piece of legislation we passed just this past Sunday was a conservative and balanced budget. The budget is the most important responsibility of the General Assembly.
We balanced the budget as our constitution requires without raising taxes, unwinding over $1 billion in new spending proposed by Governor Northam and the Democrats. Our budget deposits an additional $565.5 in the Revenue Reserve Fund bringing our total cash reserves to $1.45 billion. This reflects the prudent and responsible long-term approach Virginia takes to its finances.
In addition to teacher pay raises, the budget builds on our multi-year efforts to responsibly invest in a stronger economy by supporting major economic development deals, provides $19 million ($15m new) for broadband funding, includes $57 million to freeze tuition at our colleges and universities, increases funding for financial aid by $16 million and increases workforce grant spending to $13.5 million per year.
The final budget also includes strong language to prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion and prohibit funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood.
All 51 members were proud to vote for this conservative budget that funds the core functions of government and returns excess revenues to taxpayers.
#4 – Keeping Our Children Safe In School
A main priority of our each of our members this session was keeping our children safe in school. That is why it is another one of our 51 unique accomplishments of the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
In March of last year, I formed the Select Committee on School Safety following the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida. The Select Committee was the first of its kind in over 150 years in Virginia.
The committee presented a comprehensive final report with 24 priority recommendations that became nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that are now awaiting the Governor’s signature.
One piece of legislation will re-align the roles and responsibilities of school counselors to emphasize direct student services including emotional, behavioral, career, and life counseling and guidance. Right now, school counselors are often being asked to do a number of other duties – like test proctoring – instead of focusing on the needs of our students.
Another key recommendation includes the creation of a Student Mental Health Commission to continue to study additional aspects of mental and behavioral health. These are complicated and multi-faceted issues that don’t have easy answers. We can continue to work together in a collaborative way to address some of these topics.
The final report also includes best practices for localities on mutual aid agreements, school design and security planning, and infrastructure improvements. While we do not want to create unfunded mandates, these proposals are smart and should be implemented by localities.
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