To the Constituents of the 19th House District:
The fifth week of Session has concluded. The House of Delegates passed hundreds of bills before “Crossover” on February 7, including a Republican-led budget that returns money to taxpayers and funds essential services. In total, the House considered 1,392 bills and passed 598, sending them over to the Senate for further consideration. Likewise, 572 Senate bills have made it over to the House. After many hours of debate, we advanced legislation that reflects the priorities of Virginians who sent us to Richmond to make life easier, safer, and more affordable.
The House budget is fiscally responsible, invests in key economic and education initiatives, and builds safer communities. Specifically, it increases the standard income tax deduction to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for married couples, lowers the top marginal tax rate to 5.5 percent, and creates a qualified business income tax deduction of 10 percent. The total amount returned to taxpayers is estimated at $1 billion. As Vice Chairman of Appropriations, I am proud of the budget put forth, and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to craft the final version to be sent to the governor. Though our priorities differ from the Senate, my fellow Republican budget conferees and I will work to retain the policies we believe best postures Virginia for success.
These policies include investments in business-ready sites and a significant overhaul of our workforce development efforts. The purpose is to strengthen Virginia’s position as a hub for jobs and economic development by ensuring we have a workforce ready and able to meet the demands of a constantly evolving economy. In addition, the budget invests more than half a billion in new funding for our schools and raises teacher compensation by 12 percent over the next two years. We have also allocated tens of millions of dollars toward making college more affordable. Recognizing that not every student needs or wants a college degree, the budget includes significant new support to our vocational programs for welding, aviation maintenance, automotive repair, and other high-demand workforce programs. These initiatives are in addition to legislation House Republicans passed that earmarks specific unspent federal dollars for schools to combat learning loss.As Chair of the Appropriations Public Safety and Transportation subcommittee, I am pleased to report that the budget also delivers on our promise to build safer communities. It funds our law enforcement officers through the Governor’s Bold Blue Line initiative, allocates more funds to our school resource officers, and directs resources to prevent crimes. It also expands on proven initiatives like Operation Ceasefire to curb gun and gang violence. These are common sense initiatives that give the men and women who protect us daily the tools they need to effectively protect our communities.
A thriving economy requires stable energy infrastructure, which is why Republicans have made it a point to focus on creating a diversified energy portfolio in the Commonwealth. Several Republican bills have passed the House that seek to lower rates for electric utility customers while adding reasonable oversight measures to maximize reliability of the electric grid. If Virginia is going to have a low-carbon energy future that is both reliable and affordable, nuclear power must be part of the equation. This week, we passed multiple bills that will position Virginia as a leader in the nuclear energy sector. These bills embrace the technological benefits of small modular nuclear reactors, which can utilize the currently unused coalfields in Southwest Virginia. With the passage of these bills, House Republicans are making sure Virginia avoids the misguided policies of other states that have struggled with rolling blackouts and price uncertainty.
As for my bills, I am happy to report that all have passed out of the House and will be considered by the Senate. I will update you as they progress through the various committees and on the Senate floor. In the meantime, if I can be of assistance to you or you would like to share your position on any of my legislation, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at DelTAustin@House.Virginia.gov or 804-698-1019.
Delegate Terry L. Austin
19th House District