2014 has been a contentious year so far, with “the Virginia Way” looking more like an endangered species every day. On June 11, just before midnight, the Senate Chamber passed a budget and the House of Delegates passed our version minutes later. I am grateful that we have avoided a shut down and our localities and state employees will no longer worry about paying their bills after July 1. We were informed by Secretary of Finance Ric Brown that with a newly estimated budget shortfall of about $1.6 billion, we needed to pass a budget before June 30 to be able to tap into the “rainy day fund” and avoid draconian cuts to the budget. To see the final budget, visit: http://leg2.state.va.us/WebData/14amend5002.nsf/SenHB+List?OpenForm
However, the manner in which the budget was finally passed makes me frustrated. The Republicans kept shouting that they wanted “a clean budget” “voted up or down” with “no tricks.” Calling us to Richmond with 48 hours notice and then keeping half the Senate chamber waiting for five hours while they argued about how severe a floor amendment they should offer doesn’t pass the smell test for any of their goals.
I am pleased that, while hard choices had to be made, we did not sacrifice our commitment to our veterans. Funding for my bill, SB 481, to help more spouses and children of killed or 100 percent disabled soldiers get the college education they need will go forward, as will appropriations for the Wounded Warrior Project and the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic. We will continue to make Virginia the best place for veterans and their families.
The fight to cover 400,000 of our fellow Virginians in need of health insurance and provide up to 30,000 jobs will continue. As Sen. Chap Petersen said, “We are actually increasing taxes on our citizens by rejecting $2 billion in federal money. Stupidest thing I ever heard of.”
This summer will take me to Richmond several times for meetings including for new commission and study assignments, including the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century, the Governor’s Commission on Military Instillations & Defense Activities, the Joint Committee to Study Staffing Levels & Employment Conditions at the Department of Corrections, the Joint Commission on Health Care and the Board of Veteran Services. I usually get legislative ideas from these study commissions.
I will also spend time this summer working on the Route 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis Study Executive Committee. We are working through all the transportation options and analyzing the needs of the businesses and families along the Route 1 Corridor. If you have ideas, please visit our website to share: http://route1multimodalaa.com/share-your-ideas/ There will be a public meeting this fall the date and location will be posted on the website.
I will be traveling around the district meeting with people and finding out what they are interested in or concerned about for the next year. As always, if you are a constituent having difficulty with a state agency, please do not hesitate to contact my office for assistance. I can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 703-765-1150.
Linda T. "Toddy" Puller is a State Senator (D-36)