It’s been a tumultuous week here in Richmond, likely the most difficult I’ve experienced during my time serving in the House of Delegates.
The allegations coming out of the executive branch are extremely concerning and painful for all Virginians. You can see my full statement on Governor Northam here, and my full statement on Lt. Governor Fairfax and Attorney General Herring here.
Despite everything going and the increased media scrutiny from across the nation, I am committed to continuing the work that the voters in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights elected me to complete. The General Assembly will continue working on the budget, fighting the opioid crisis, and working to strengthen our education system to ensure it remains the rival of the nation.
Providing Tax Relief
The biggest policy issue of the 2019 session was how to handle the increased revenue from the federal tax law changes that took effect last year. My Republican colleagues and I have been committed to giving this money back to taxpayers, while the governor and our Democratic colleagues have proposed spending increases.
On Friday, House and Senate Republican leaders announced an agreement on a $1 billion tax relief package that will guarantee a family nearly $400 in tax relief over the next two years. Our plan will provide one-time tax refunds of $220 for a married couple this October, and then $173 in tax relief every year through 2025. This is simple, direct, and tangible tax relief that will make a meaningful difference for hardworking people.
You can see more on our plan by clicking here.
House Passes Conservative Budget Without Tax Increases
This week, the House of Delegates passed amendments to the two-year budget. The amendments eliminate spending based on tax increases and prioritizes new investments in public education, school safety, and economic development. The budget passed with bipartisan support and is balanced as required by the Constitution of Virginia. It will now go to the Senate for consideration while the House considers the Senate budget.
The House identifies $120 million in healthcare savings, $32 million in lower-than-expected administrative costs for Medicaid expansion. Additionally, it strengthens the Medicaid forecasting process to help ensure better forecasting of Medicaid costs and avoid unanticipated costs.
The House budget also includes $725 million in savings over the next 25 years by shoring up our retiree health plan system. This is a major reform that will protect taxpayers for a long time to come.
Teachers and parents alike have faithfully been advocating for increased education funding. I’m proud to report that the House budget makes significant investments in K-12 education. The amendments passed this week include a 5% pay raise for teachers and $155 million in new funding for public schools. Funding is included to help implement school safety initiatives so that schools remain a place of learning.
I look forward to the continued debate on the budget.
On Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 2577, legislation to lift the age cap for autism coverage to help approximately 10,000 Virginians get access to needed healthcare. This piece of legislation has been a long time coming and I am proud of the House for taking this step to guarantee those on the Autism spectrum have access to much needed healthcare. Many of these children are not diagnosed until they are already six or seven years of age and need access to important care for longer than just three or four years.
Currently, state law only says that health insurers must offer such coverage for individuals from age two through age 10. No other prevalent health condition including– asthma, diabetes and cancer– has coverage limits imposed based on the age of the patient. Coverage for all other health conditions is based on medical necessity.
Children did not choose to be born with Autism and I thank my colleagues for taking this giant step towards providing treatment for those diagnosed regardless of age.
Making College More Affordable
Also on Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 1611, legislation to make it easier for middle class students and families to afford college by lowering the price of Prepaid529 plans. The legislation will lower the current cost of an eight semester contract by more than $3,000.
Lowering the cost of college has long be a priority for me in the House of Delegates. Virginia students borrow more than $1 billion per year to pay for college, a staggering burden that hurts our economy and makes it harder for young people to get started after college. This legislation will go a long ways to helping middle class students and families be able to afford a quality education at one of Virginia’s colleges or universities.
Currently, families pay a 10 percent “pricing reserve” on top of the semester contract prices. The pricing reserve is on top of the amount needed to pay future contract benefits and is used to mitigate risk to the fund. A June 2018 analysis by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), found that Virginia’s Prepaid529 program is 138% funded and actuarially sound. This means that the program is more than capable of meeting all of its benefit commitments.
The legislation, introduced by Delegates Steve Landes and Tim Hugo, would cap the pricing reserve at five percent if the program is more than 105 percent funded, as it is currently. The program’s relatively high funded status and actuarial soundness prompted JLARC to recommend the General Assembly consider measures to improve program affordability. JLARC estimates that reducing the pricing reserve from 10% to 5% would lower the current cost of an 8-semester contract by more than $3,000.
This commonsense proposal will have a significant impact on families’ being able to keep more money in their pockets and attend college at a lower cost.
Thank you to all who took my 2019 survey. I appreciate the feedback on the ten questions included in the survey as well as the additional comments shared with me via email, phone calls, and letters. The input is invaluable and allows me to better represent our district in the House of Delegates.
Visitors to Richmond
One of my favorite parts of each legislative session is welcoming students from Manchester High School to the State Capitol. This week I once again welcomed seniors to Richmond to watch their legislature in action. Students observed the legislative process in action during committee and floor session, toured the historic Capitol, met with and questioned legislators, and viewed the “New Virginians” exhibit at the Library of Virginia.
I look forward to hearing from you concerning matters coming before the General Assembly. You can call my office at (804) 698-1066; email me at DelKCox@house.virginia.gov; or write to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218. In addition to my weekly email newsletters, you can stay up to date by liking my Facebook page and following me on Twitter.