Opinion: Commentary: Virginia House Appropriations Committee Budget Release

Opinion: Commentary: Virginia House Appropriations Committee Budget Release

We have officially moved past crossover day, and I have seventeen of my twenty-seven bills introduced bills that will be considered in the Senate. It has been a productive and exciting session as my colleagues and I work together to reshape Virginia. Between both chambers, 3,292 pieces of legislation have been introduced this year. As of the beginning of this week, 1,640 bills are still alive and pending. Numerous progressive bills regarding voting access, labor protection, climate change, social justice, and gun safety came before the House. We have deliberated thoughtfully on these bills to ensure we are passing legislation that benefits all Virginians.

Sunday was an important day, as it was the release of the House Appropriations Committee's budget for the biennium. Budgets are a true reflection of our values as a Commonwealth, and I am excited for the direction this budget we have put together takes us in.

The goals for this budget revolve around saving more money for the Commonwealth’s rainy day fund and providing employee compensation increases for all groups of employees, including an additional raise for school teachers above what was provided for in the Governor’ budget. It ensures that college remains accessible and affordable for Virginia’s students by continuing last year’s historic tuition freeze over the coming biennium.This budget also includes critical investments in education, affordable health care, environmental protection, and workers’ rights in Virginia. It will guard Virginia’s AAA bond rating while supporting every Virginian’s ability to succeed. This is the most progressive amendment package in Virginia’s history all the while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

Read on below for my first report to the Appropriations Committee as the Chair of the Transportation and Public Safety Subcommittee.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

On behalf of the newly merged Transportation and Public Safety Subcommittee, I am very pleased to present to you our budget recommendations. I also would like to thank the Chairman for his support and guidance during my first year chairing this subcommittee.

To ensure the fair and efficient operation of our justice system, the Subcommittee report supports several investments in our judicial branch. First, the Subcommittee recommends more than $11 million over the biennium for 60 new deputy district court clerks each year. The report also provides funding for 59 new public defenders, and to open the first new public defender office in the Commonwealth since 2005, in Prince William County. The subcommittee also recommends an additional $1 million each year be provided to increase the number of civil indigent defense attorneys.

The Subcommittee's recommendations also support several bills adopted by the House of Delegates. This includes $7 million over the biennium for State Police to implement the provisions of the Community Policing Act, more than $2 million over the biennium to support the expansion of eligibility for writs of actual innocence, and more than $1 million to reflect the corrections impacts of 21 House Bills affecting criminal sentencing.

I am also pleased to hear the Compensation and General Government Subcommittee has recommended targeted salary adjustments for DOC'S correctional officers, and for our state troopers. Ensuring adequate compensation for the individuals who work to keep our Commonwealth safe is something I know the members of the Transportation and Public Safety Subcommittee wholeheartedly support.

In the area of transportation, the funding adjustments recommended by the Subcommittee are driven largely by our passage of the Speaker's House Bill 1414, the omnibus transportation legislation, as well as the passage of House Bill 1541 which creates the Central Virginia Transportation Authority. Based on the provisions of these bills and the resulting funding amendments, the subcommittee recommendations would provide a total of approximately $18.8 billion for transportation during the 2020-22 biennium, an increase of more than 12 percent compared to the current biennium. These funding increases for the upcoming and future biennium will enable us to address mobility chokepoints, which is vital to improving the day to day lives of our citizens and to ensuring our future economic prosperity.

While we can never fully prepare for future unknowns, tying transportation user fees to growth in the Consumer Price Index and average fuel efficiency is a first step toward bridging the funding gap arising from new technologies and preparing for the increase in electric and other non-petroleum powered vehicles.

Mr. Chairman, the report of the Subcommittee is now before you and the Members of the Committee. Committee staff will review the report in more detail, and I hope it will be the Committee's pleasure to adopt the Subcommittee's report.

It is always an honor to serve you in Richmond. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at DelPKrizek@House.Virginia.Gov throughout this legislative session with questions, concerns, or legislative opinions.