Column: Some Final Thoughts on the Budget

Column: Some Final Thoughts on the Budget


The General Assembly has adjourned sine die, from the Latin “without day,” meaning without assigning a next day for this session. However, we will meet again on April 20 for the reconvene session where we will spend a day voting on whether or not to sustain the Governor’s vetoes. We can expect at least 20 vetoes, which is a good thing since some of the bills we passed deserve no less.

The most important legislation was the biennial budget, for which I voted. It passed the General Assembly 91-8. This final $105 billion budget was a bipartisan effort on our spending priorities hashed out between the Senate and General Assembly last week and passed late Friday evening, our 59th and final day of session, my first as your delegate representing the 44th District.

Politics is the art of the possible and requires much compromise, where it is unlikely that everyone will be be happy with the final product. This was the case with this budget and though I am disappointed that we couldn’t find a way to include an expansion of Medicaid to provide life-saving health care for the approximately 400,000 Virginians that need it, the budget includes much that will strengthen our economy, protect our environment and support quality public education at all levels.

It includes a 2 percent raise this year for teachers and state workers, $200 million in new funding for K-12 with fewer strings attached in how schools can spend it, provides $114 million to colleges and universities to mitigate the need for tuition increases, $48 million for undergraduate financial aid, and a 2.5 percent increase for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), something I am proud to say I worked successfully to get included in the budget.

Despite literally thousands of bills that we debated, amended, or ended up defeating or passing by until next year, we did pass 774 bills for the Governor to review and either sign into law or veto. As of this writing, the Governor has acted on 326 bills.

It was a busy session for all of the delegates and especially for me, as a I had to get up to speed quickly as a freshman legislator on the busy Courts of Justice Committee. More bills went through this committee than any other. I also served on two of its subcommittees, Civil and Ethics, as well as serving on the Committee for Counties, Cities and Towns and one of its two subcommittees.

While we were in session, the Governor vetoed four bills which we successfully voted to sustain on party lines, with all 34 Democrats voting to sustain. 67 votes are necessary to override a veto, and the Republican majority is one vote shy of that necessary margin.

HB 516, known in the media as the “Beloved” bill for Toni Morrison’s novel of the same name that sparked the patron’s interest in drafting the bill, is one of the many the governor will most likely veto. It would make Virginia the only state to require schools to notify parents of instructional material with “sexually explicit content.” It passed 76-21 though I voted against.

The governor vetoed a bill I wrote about extensively last week in this column regarding extending tax credits to the coal industry — a waste of taxpayer money in my opinion. Better to spend that money for sustainable development and renewable energy, like solar, to provide employment to replace those coal mining jobs lost due to cheaper energy.

Also, I voted against a bill that would allow the state to use the electric chair for executions if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, and I will urge the governor to veto it. I don’t want us to bring back the electric chair.

My colleagues across the aisle rejected the governor’s effort to amend a bill that would grant near-automatic concealed-carry rights for those who take out protective orders in order to escape domestic violence. I respectfully do not subscribe to the narrative that concealed-carry makes anyone more safe. I expect that McAuliffe will also veto this bill.

On mostly party lines we passed a measure to “protect” religious groups from government-imposed penalties over their views on same-sex marriage. The Constitution already protects against government persecution of people of faith. This bill, if law, would give license to discriminate against the LGBT community and is clearly unconstitutional. I am sure the Governor will also veto this, and he has plenty of votes to sustain his veto.

The legislative session may be over, but I continue to represent the citizens of the 44th district and look forward to continue serve you an honor and responsibility I do not take lightly. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance. Thank you. And, you can follow me on twitter and Facebook @KrizekforVa for more up-to-date information.