Statement of House Speaker Kirk Cox on House passage of 2018-2020 state budget

May 30, 2018

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) issued the following statement Wednesday after the House of Delegates voted to accept the Senate amendments to House Bills 5001 and 5002, passing the state budget. The budget bills will now go directly to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature.

“The House of Delegates acted Wednesday to complete the work we started six weeks ago, passing House Bills 5001 and 5002 and sending them to Governor Northam for his signature. The balanced budget we adopted includes no new general fund taxes, replenishes Virginia’s reserve funds, invests in our people, and reflects our multi-year effort to grow Virginia’s economy through responsible investments and prudent fiscal planning.

“First and foremost, this budget replenishes various state savings accounts, a critical step necessary to preserve our prestigious AAA bond rating.The budget invests the entirety of the projected budget surplus in our reserve funds, including our constitutionally-required deposit to the rainy day fund and another significant deposit in our new short-term cash reserve. By the end of the biennium, Virginia should have close to if not more than $1 billion in our two primary reserve funds, a strong signal that our Commonwealth remains one of the safest investments in the country.

“The budget also includes what I consider the most conservative set of reforms to Medicaid in the nation as part of a plan to expand healthcare coverage to working Virginians. Our plan gives hard-working people a path to self sufficiency through a robust work requirement, empowers them to be part of their healthcare decisions, and safeguards taxpayers by both requiring hospitals to fund the future cost of expansion and including an automatic safety switch to disenroll people if the federal government fails to keep its commitments.

“Throughout the entirety of this process, my position on Medicaid has never wavered. I remain concerned about the long-term fiscal impacts of expansion, but the simple truth is there were never enough votes in the House or Senate to block some form of Medicaid Expansion. When I was elected Speaker, I committed to lead the House as a governing body, not a political one, and when confronted with that reality we crafted a plan that guarantees conservative reforms that would not have otherwise been realized.

“Healthcare is just one way this budget invests in our people. We are funding a three percent teacher pay raise and fully-funding our public schools, with over $480 million in new classroom spending. The budget also includes a two percent pay raise for our state employees and raises the minimum salary for our sheriff’s deputies to $32,500. Keeping with our conservative theme, all of our compensation actions are contingent on the state meeting projected revenues; if the money isn’t there, Virginia will not spend it.

“We are also building on our past efforts, investing in higher education degrees that promote a strong workforce. We are increasing funding for our workforce credential program, incentivizing colleges to offer degrees in high-demand fields, making significant investments in our Port, and increasing funding for broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas. These are incremental but significant efforts to better position our citizens for long-term economic success.

“Despite all of the noise of the last six weeks, the General Assembly has fulfilled its constitutional duty and produced a balanced budget that charts a prudent fiscal course for our Commonwealth. As we look toward the work ahead, I hope we can move forward in a manner that is worthy of the people we serve.”