On Thursday of last week, the Governor released his proposed biennial budget. The centerpiece of McAuliffe's proposed budget is a $1 billion increase in K-12 and higher education spending. The governor is proposing the state spend $139.1 million to help Virginia school districts hire 2,500 new teachers. He also wants the state to spend $50 million more to increase the number of in-state students receiving degrees and roughly $48.2 million for in-state financial aid. In addition to the education spending increase from the state's General Fund, McAuliffe is proposing the state sell bonds to pay for more than $1 billion in construction at the state's public universities and community colleges.
McAuliffe is also proposing a 2 percent increase for state employees and also wants the state to substantially increase its funding for education. The Virginia Education Association said it is disappointed McAuliffe isn't proposing a bigger pay raise for teachers than 2 percent, which the group said is needed to attract and keep the best teachers. The governor is also proposing a slight adjustment to how much the state collects on personal income tax, which would cost the state $42 million over the next two years but amount to a yearly savings for the average taxpayer of only a few dollars.
McAuliffe's spending plan assumes that Virginia will expand Medicaid in the next two years, which his administration projects would save the state $156 million in mental health, prisoner health, and indigent care costs.
The governor's budget uses that $157 million to pay for items his administration believes Republicans support, including an incentive program designed to foster greater regional cooperation that's been backed by the state's corporate leaders and increasing funding for Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center.
The Governor has raised expectations and over promised. It is unfortunate to see Governor McAuliffe include Medicaid expansion in his budget again, which he knows the General Assembly does not support. Predicating economic development priorities and tax cuts on assumptions related to expansion is counterproductive and only makes it more difficult to produce a budget on time. Developing the budget is a collaborative process between the Governor and the General Assembly, and we are much more productive when we emphasize areas of common ground.
If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434)821-5929 or email at Delmfariss@house.virginia.gov