Thursday, February 7, 2019

It's Budget Day

Today the House and Senate budget bills are on the floor of the body of origin. This is the next step that will be taken as we move towards a final budget before the General Assembly adjourns on (hopefully) February 23. Make sure you contact your legislators and ask them to adopt the SENATE version on salary increases and the HOUSE version of the increases to school counselors by clicking here to send them an email

In odd numbered years, the Governor and the General Assembly are not crafting a new budget, they are amending the biennial budget that is adopted in even numbered years. So while Virginia does operate on a biennial budget, there really is a budget fight every year. This year is especially contentious given the very significant changes to Federal tax policies that were included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year. The tax cuts at the Federal level actually put many states, like Virginia, in a position where the legislatures need to determine how to implement the new policies at the state level.

The Governor's proposal took advantage of the additional state tax revenues by investing them in public services, mainly public education. Both bodies of the General Assembly have taken a different approach. They have taken all of the additional revenues and put them into a "lock box" until October. The plan is that the General Assembly will reconvene at that time and pass legislation to send those revenues to Virginians. It's interesting that the Republican leadership have come up with a plan to send Virginians checks immediately prior to Election Day for the General Assembly. Coincidence? Probably not.

This will be a long day of floor debate and breaks to caucus as the debate each amendment to the budget. Once each body passes their budget, it will cross over to the other body. Each body will insist on its own version of the budget and that action leads to the bill going to Conference. That simply means that a smaller group of legislators from each body will be assigned to figure out a compromise bill. That takes time. Once the conferees have an agreement, we will go through the process again only there will be agreement in each body to pass the Conference budget. That usually happens on the last day of session. At least that's how it is supposed to go...  we will see.