Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Delegate Keam's Statement on the Budget and Transportation


MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sunday, February 27, 2011 Contact: Julia Kim, (703) 350-3911, Julia@MarkKeam.com

Statement of Delegate Mark Keam on Passage of the Budget Amendments and the Governor's Transportation Bill

RICHMOND, VA — On the last day of the 2011 regular session, the Virginia House of Delegates adopted two measures that may be considered the most significant legislation of the year: amendments to the biennial budget and Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation bill. As the regular session of the General Assembly adjourned sine die on the evening of Sunday, February 27, 2011, Delegate Mark Keam issued the following statement on his support for the two legislative proposals: The Budget Amendments I am pleased to support the conference report on House Bill 1500, which includes numerous amendments to the biennial state budget we adopted last year for FY 2011-2012.  I thank all of the House and Senate conferees who worked around the clock for the past two weeks to conduct their negotiations in good faith. The result of their hard work speaks for itself.  According to House Appropriations Chairman Lacey Putney, who has served in the legislature for 50 years, this was the first time that the state's budget was adopted unanimously by both the House of Delegates and the Senate.  For that historic passage, Chairman Putney and all of the conferees deserved the standing ovation that my House colleagues and I provided on the floor of the House Chamber tonight. As the Commonwealth continues to face tough economic realities, I believe we need to continue to be fiscally prudent in making our decisions.  Rather than spend all we can on our favorite projects, we should focus instead on the government's core functions and invest with an eye toward anticipated future shortfalls.  However, this does not mean that we should take short cuts with programs that serve the most vulnerable among us. Specifically, I am happy to see that that budget includes $104 million in a one-time supplemental payment for public education, of which Fairfax County schools will receive almost $6.4 million.  Included in this additional funding is my budget amendment which provides $66,265 more from the state to increase the enrollment cap for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology by 50 students.  I was pleased to work with several constituent parents of TJ students to pass this successful amendment. The budget also included a version of my amendment to repeal the dreaded accelerated sales tax payment that the General Assembly imposed on small businesses in last year's budget.  The conference report included a one-time revenue loss of $45.7 million by raising the threshold from $1 million to $5.4 million in sales for those tax payers who might have been subjected to this unfair tax burden.  I worked with Delegate David Englin to present this amendment in the House Appropriations Committee, and we are both proud to be able to provide this tax relief to 80 percent of mom-and-pop business owners who otherwise would have been forced to pay their June sales taxes in June instead of in July. There are several other measures included in the budget conference report that I support, including: 
  • Creation of a $30 million Trust Fund for Intellectual Disability Medicaid Waiver slots to begin the process of discharging individuals in our training facilities back into their communities; 
  • Additional $35 million in community-specific support through the restoration of respite care hours, provider reimbursements and Intellectual Disability and Developmentally Disabled Waiver slots; 
  • Nearly $100.7 million in general funds to improve affordability for in-state undergraduate students in Virginia colleges and universities as well increasing the number of STEM degrees; 
  • Total of $22.6 million for Sheriffs, $3 million for state police overtime, and $12.4 million for HB 599 funds to support local law enforcement officers; 
  • Payments of $77 million to the Virginia Retirement System to protect the pension liability of state employees while reinstating a 5% employee retirement contribution with an equal 5% salary offset; and 
  • Setting aside $114 million toward the required $228 million deposit we have to make next year in the Commonwealth's Rainy Day Fund.
Based on these and other prudent measures in the budget, I am hopeful that the fiscal future of our Commonwealth is headed in a positive direction. The Transportation Bill While tonight's vote on final passage of Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation bill was not unanimous, it was overwhelming and bipartisan.  I was pleased to join almost every Delegate or Senator who represents Fairfax County in supporting House Bill 2527, which passed the House 80 to 16 and the Senate 33 to 7. For far too long, we have talked about tackling traffic congestion in Northern Virginia, but a comprehensive legislative fix has been elusive.  Politicians have often let rigid ideologies get in the way of real solutions.  Instead of debating a range of long-term sustainable and dedicated sources of revenues to fund the $7 billion per year that Virginia needs, campaign seasons bring us only bumper sticker slogans and gimmicks. That is why I was disappointed when Governor McDonnell presented as his initial transportation plan the idea of privatizing liquor stores.  Thankfully, neither the Republican-controlled House nor the Democratic-controlled Senate showed any interest in pursuing this approach. To his credit, the Governor then came back with a more substantive proposal that would steer $4 billion to fund over 900 road projects.
  • The Governor's bill as amended through the legislative process accelerates the issuance of $1.8 billion in state bonds that were already authorized by the General Assembly in 2007, by increasing the annual issue amount from the current limit of $300 million to $600 million. 
  • The bill authorizes $1.1 billion in new "Grant Anticipation Revenue Notes" which are supported by anticipated future federal transportation revenues and is similar to "FRAN" bonds that were used before.  The massive projects to be funded by GARVEE bonds will be chosen by Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration. 
  • It also creates a new "Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank" to make loans and grants to qualified public and private entities for transportation projects.  The initial funding will come from $33 million in surplus general funds and $250 million in unused funds identified in a recent VDOT audit. 
  • Finally, the bill helps larger localities like Fairfax County leverage additional revenue sharing opportunities by increasing the $1 million local matching on transportation fund cap to $10 million. 
While this bill — even as amended — is nowhere near perfect and I have some concerns about the magnitude of borrowing and debt that the Commonwealth could bear, I decided on balance to support this bill as amended. In the spirit of taking a half a loaf now, I voted for this bill in order to expedite the start of construction projects while interest rates on borrowing are low and companies and workers are hungry for business opportunities.  I do believe that this is a good first step but we need more than a one-time $4 billion shot in the arm. I hope Governor McDonnell and my colleagues in the General Assembly will continue to put more ideas on the table so we can find the long term solutions we need to address our growing transportation problems.  I look forward to working with them to continue to make transportation a high priority for the Commonwealth.

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