The Virginia General Assembly convened on January 11th and we are now into the second full week of the 45 day “short session.” Like any other session, the General Assembly will consider thousands of bills and, this year, countless amendments to the two-year budget approved last year. Hovering over the session, however, is the Commonwealth’s $1.2 billion budget shortfall, forcing significant changes in order to bring the budget back in to balance.
To address the shortfall, the Governor has proposed to use $567 million from the rainy day fund and hundreds of millions in additional spending reductions and tax adjustments. It is not all cuts, however, as the Governor has proposed new spending to address certain priorities as well as comply with mandatory spending requirements related to healthcare and other issues.
The Northern Virginia Chamber has been working with the Governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly on a number of budget amendments for core Chamber priorities. Examples of some of the top budget priorities for the Chamber include:
- Restoration of funding for GO Virginia
- Restoration of Funding for Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Institute at the Inova Center for Personalized Health
- Preservation of Cost of Competing Adjustment funding for Northern Virginia schools
- The addition of funding for George Mason University in support of research, new initiatives, and financial aid.
- A $1 million increase in funding for the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program
In addition to addressing the budget, the Chamber is committed to advocating on those bills that will have a disproportionate impact on the business community and our regional business climate. Last week, the Chamber stood in opposition to a series of Senate bills (SB785, SB978) which would have mandated in increase in minimum wage, and we will do so when similar business mandate bills are heard in House committees. The Senate bills failed to pass out of Committee.
The Chamber has supported a series of bills designed to improve the tax atmosphere for business across our region. This year, the Chamber has worked with Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) to put forth a bill that creates a level playing field for businesses as it relates to appointment of BPOL Tax - this bill will be before a Commerce and Labor Subcommittee this week.
As it relates to transportation, there are two top priority efforts that the Chamber is putting its full support behind. Bills patroned by Del. Jim LeMunyon in the House, and Senator George Barker in the Senate, will formally approve language to establish the federally mandated Metro Safety Commission. Approving these bills is critical to building upon the renewed safety culture at Metro, and will ensure that millions of federal transportation dollars dedicated to transit across Virginia are not put at risk.
Additionally, the Chamber strongly supports implementation of a floor to the regional motor fuels tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Bills carried by Sens. Frank Wagner and Chap Petersen in the Senate, would implement a technical fix necessary because of a legislative oversight that was part of the landmark 2013 transportation law, HB2313. Due to this oversight, Northern Virginia has experienced a shortfall of $35 million for road and transit funding.
The Chamber is looking forward to once again hosting its annual lobby day and legislative reception - Viva Virginia - this this Thursday in Richmond. Chamber board leaders, member companies, and staff will have a full schedule of meetings with decision makers from across the Commonwealth and Northern Virginia including Governor McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Northam, Speaker Howell, and Senator Minority Leader Saslaw. Lobby day will be followed by Viva Virginia which provides a great chance to interact with elected leaders, key influencers, and fellow chamber members. For more information, and to register for Viva Virginia, please follow this link.
We have had an active session thus far engaging in member supported bills that aim to strengthen the business climate in the Commonwealth, and will continue to do so throughout the entire session. To keep up to date on the Chamber’s efforts in Richmond, be sure to follow the weekly recap and Doing Business newsletters, as well as participate in the weekly General Assembly update conference call each Friday morning at 8:00 AM. Call in information is below:
Call-in number: (641) 715-3580