Happy New Year and warmest wishes from the Bulova family!
The 2024 General Assembly session is right around the corner. On January 10 at high noon, we will convene in Richmond and continue a tradition started 405 years ago in Jamestown. This year is a long-session (60 days). Typically, between 2,000 and 3,000 bills are introduced for debate. This is also the year when Virginia adopts its biennial budget.
FAIRFAX DELEGATION PUBLIC FORUM
You can help shape this year's session by sharing what is important to you. The easiest way to reach me is by email at email@example.com. I greatly value the diversity of expertise and perspectives of my constituents.
In addition, the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly will hold its annual public forum this Saturday. The forum is limited to Fairfax residents (both County and City) speaking for themselves and/or a community-based organization. Speakers are allotted up to three minutes.
Date: Saturday, January 6
Time: Starts at 9:00 a.m.
Location: Fairfax County Government Center
Those wishing to speak must register online no later than noon on Thursday, January 4. Click here for more details, including how to register and watch remotely.
GOVERNOR'S PROPOSED BUDGET
In Virginia, the Governor gets the first crack at the budget, which is introduced as House Bill 30. In addition, he has an opportunity to recommend changes to the current budget as House Bill 29 - known as the "Caboose Bill."
As the old adage goes, "The Governor proposes and the Legislature disposes." In practice, though, the Governor's proposed budget sets the stage for debate by the General Assembly, which then votes on amendments to the budget bill. The Governor unveiled his budget (HB29 and HB30) to the Joint Money Committees on December 20. You can find a detailed presentation on the proposed budget here.
In addition to his spending plan, the Governor has proposed several tax structure changes - including a 12% cut in income taxes across the board. This would be partially offset by increasing the sales tax and expanding it to cover more goods and services (such as digital downloads). While Virginia's tax structure is definitely ripe for reform, the concern here is replacing the modestly progressive income tax with one that is regressive. This has a greater impact on low and moderate income families.
While there are things to like and dislike about the proposed budget, the one I really like is the "Building Blocks for Virginia Families" initiative. During the pandemic, the federal government provided Virginia with funding to expand access to quality early childhood education programs. That funding is set to expire, creating the potential for thousands of families to lose critical support. Early childhood education has largely been a bi-partisan issue and I am glad that the budget proposes $437 million to ensure that Virginia does not take a giant leap backward.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the budget includes ZERO dollars to shore up Metro - which could be forced to make draconian cuts without action by Virginia, Maryland, and DC. There are many reasons for the Metro shortfall, and operational reforms and efficiencies must be implemented as part of any funding package. However, Metro is too important to our region to put at risk. Securing additional funding will be one of our region's highest priorities.
Other focus areas include K-12 education, mental health, Medicaid spending, natural resources, workforce development, and flood resilience. Check out this Virginia Mercury article for a good summation of the Governor's proposed budget.
TOWN HALL SAVE THE DATE
Mark your calendar for my annual Town Hall meeting on Saturday, February 3 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Fairfax City Hall. We will be joined by Senator Saddam Salim and go over major issues and the status of our own legislative initiatives. Watch for additional details.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the House of Delegates! As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback!