My heart is still heavy of the events last week that resulted in the death of five law enforcement officers. Innocent men were blindsided and lost their lives as they were protecting and serving their community. Violence against law enforcement, those sworn to protect the citizens, is no way to mourn the tragic loss of life in Louisiana and Minnesota. Targeting public servants serves in no way to advance the discussion our nation requires. America is exceptional because of its capability to resolve differences through political and judicial institutions instead of turning to violence.
I am grateful to the brave men and women of the Virginia State Police, the Capitol Police, Sheriff’s offices and police departments in my district and around the state, and all law enforcement personnel who risk their lives every day to keep our neighborhoods, communities, and Commonwealth safe. I will remain dedicated to supporting these individuals in their work. They are heroes in the truest sense of the words and our appreciation for their efforts is boundless.
Violence is never the answer. It is on each of us to be a visible force in our communities for non-violence. Join together online, in your neighborhood, in your houses of worship, around your kitchen table. For all of you community leaders, use your platforms to heal and unite. Talk and listen, see and hear each other during this moment for our country that requires profound introspection and dialogue. This violence has to stop. It is not normal. And it is not who we are.
The General Assembly adopted a conservative and responsible budget based on unanimous revenue projections presented to the Governor and the General Assembly. Unfortunately, Virginia’s economy is not keeping pace and state tax revenues fell short of those projections. The Commonwealth of Virginia closed fiscal year 2016, ending on June 30, with positive general fund revenue growth over last year. This year’s $18.3 billion in revenue collections set a new record for annual gross receipts, but fell short of the official budgetary forecast for the year. On Friday, the Governor’s Office announced that state revenue collections came in $266 million short, based on preliminary numbers. This news is devastating, as it delays and endangers planned raises for state employees and local teachers.
Our economy added jobs, but it was hindered by lower-than-in-the-past wages and a continuing increase in part-time employment, the numbers show. A hit in sales tax collections, due partly to internet shopping and a wet spring that slowed home construction, also put the state at a disadvantage. The problem is that the state expected 3.2 percent growth earlier this year, when the governor and General Assembly backed the largest two-year state spending plan in Virginia history.
The final fiscal year 2016 tally, including transfers, will not be available until August 26th when it will be released to a Joint Legislative Money Committee meeting. Now the economists, analysts and business people who help set Virginia's revenue estimate each year will regroup and rework the estimate by September 1st. Language in the Appropriation Act also requires that pay increases for state and state-supported local employees, slated for December 1, cannot move forward pending budgetary actions to address the shortfall. They may be salvaged by cuts elsewhere in the budget, or by dipping into the state's rainy day fund. The raises, for state employees, state-supported teachers, sheriff's deputies and other state-funded workers would add up to about $300 million. Final word on those increases may not come until next year's legislative session.
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