The past week has been a busy one in the General Assembly as the House of Delegates passed the 2016-2018 biennial state budget. The Senate also passed a similar budget. During the next two weeks, differences between these two budgets, which are relatively minor, will be negotiated to form a consensus budget that will be forwarded to the governor. The new budget will take effect July 1.
Unlike the deficit spending and political acrimony in Washington D.C., the Virginia House passed a balanced budget on a bipartisan basis. The budget has no new taxes or fees. The House budget bill, HB 30, passed the House on a vote of 98-2. I voted yes. I'd like to highlight funding for K-12 education, public university education, mental health, and transportation that is included in the House-passed budget.
K-12 education funding from the state will increase from $7.1 to $7.7 billion between 2016 and 2018. Education funding from the state for Fairfax County schools is $614 million for the current school year. For the next two school years, the figures are $632 million and $671 million respectively. Higher education funding includes funding for increased access for in-state undergraduate students and affordability. General fund spending for higher education in the House-passed budget is $1.77 billion in 2017 and $1.82 billion in 2018. This compares to $1.59 billion in the current year. These increases are aimed at holding tuition increases at in-state universities to no more than three percent per year, although each university board and not the General Assembly, makes this decision.
Funding for mental health treatment centers throughout the state is $746 million for the 2016-18 period, an increase of 10 percent from 2014-2016.
Transportation funding statewide for 2016-2018 is $13.4 billion, a 12 percent increase in funding from 2014-16. Part of the transportation funding includes $140 million for widening I-66 eastbound inside the Beltway, with additional money available for I-66 improvements outside the Beltway. These two related projects are expected to reduce congestion in Northern Virginia in a way that adds approximately 100,000 hours of time back into the lives of Northern Virginians each business day. These I-66 projects are expected to be completed by 2020 or 2021.
The House continues to consider Senate bills and vice versa as we begin the final two weeks of the 2016 General Assembly session. Of the 24 bills and one resolution that I introduced that passed the House, all but two continue to advance through Senate committees and to the Senate floor with bipartisan support. As always, I welcome your comments and questions. I may be reached at email@example.com or 703-264-1432. Your call will forward to the Richmond office.