To the Constituents of the 19th House District:
The General Assembly has concluded its seventh week of the 2022 Session. This week’s work focused on crafting the Commonwealth’s biennial budget. As Vice Chair of Appropriations, I am proud of the budget we passed out of the House this past Thursday. The Republican majority passed a responsible, forward-looking state spending plan that puts more money back into the pockets of taxpayers while investing in the Commonwealth’s present and future needs. As Chairman of the Appropriations Transportation and Public Safety Subcommittee I also am pleased to report that the House budget increases law enforcement funding and ensures that there are still sufficient revenues to continue improving our transportation systems in Virginia.
House Republicans focused on how best to manage revenues in the current inflationary environment. With revenues coming in well over forecast, we prioritized returning a sizeable portion of monies back to taxpayers. In fact, the House budget for 2022-2024 includes $5.3 billion in tax relief measures; this is being achieved with tax rebates of up to $300 for individual filers and up to $600 for joint filers. We are also eliminating the state grocery tax, suspending gas tax hikes, and doubling the standard state income tax deduction.
Meanwhile, we are making major investments in the future of the Commonwealth. With $17 billion in education spending, this is the biggest K-12 budget in Virginia history. It gives teachers a well-deserved pay raise at 4 percent per year in the biennium, along with a 1 percent bonus each year. It also helps localities make major improvements to aging and crumbling schools by setting aside $2 billion for school construction grants. Finally, we are giving students new opportunities to learn by setting aside $150 million to develop laboratory schools with our colleges and universities, and we’re funding the Virginia literacy act.
The state budget illustrates our priorities, and as Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that deals with public safety and transportation, I believe we have sent a clear message to law enforcement and corrections officers that we are grateful for their daily sacrifices. Which is why my subcommittee recommended that $100 million in ARPA funds be used to support state and local law enforcement officers to meet their equipment and training needs, with no less than $80 million to be provided to local agencies. We also appropriated $26 million to ensure that every public school has a School Resource Officer.
As Chairman of Transportation, it is my responsibility to ensure that our transportation systems are effective, efficient, and safe at moving people and product. As a member of Appropriations, it is my responsibility to ensure that these goals are achieved in a fiscally responsible manner. Because Republicans have made it a priority to return taxpayer dollars through the suspension of the gas tax and elimination of the grocery tax, there was some concern on how this would impact transportation, which these two taxes fund. After extensive analysis it was determined that an increase in funding is still viable thanks to significant growth in transportation revenues and the expectation of additional federal funds becoming available based on the federal infrastructure bill. In fact, even with cutting taxes the transportation budget still increased $1 billion for each year of the biennium. I have always been a proponent of investing in our transportation systems to grow the economy and am pleased that we can do so while cutting taxes.
Ultimately, our budget is a starting place. The Senate will pass its version of the budget, and differences between the two documents will be resolved in conference before we send a final budget to the governor. That said, we are proud of the work that we have done, and we believe it represents the will of the voters. This is a budget that truly gives back to Virginia.
I look forward to updating you on the forthcoming weeks of Session. As always, if my office can be of assistance to you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at DelTAustin@House.Virginia.gov.
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