Some 60 days have passed since the Governor called a special session of the General Assembly to address the issue of the biennial budget. We are no closer to passing the budget today than we were when we began the process during the regularly scheduled session. Taking a cue from across the Potomac, House Republicans continue to “just say no” to not only healthcare for hundreds of thousands of Virginians, but now their leaders are refusing to consider a budget bill (a necessary tool to have for the process) which has passed the Senate with support from both sides of the aisle. The rationale for this irresponsible act is their claim that it is “tradition” for the bill to originate in the House of Delegates rather than the Senate. Of course that particular measure does not address the original problem of why we are in a special session.
Since January I have shared with you the significance of expanding Medicaid in the Commonwealth. Thousands of low-income earners (people working and contributing with their taxes), some veterans and seniors are among the individuals that will benefit from this initiative. And if you take it a step further, everyone who is currently paying for healthcare insurance should also benefit when we redirect access to healthcare out of the hospital emergency rooms. This is a no-brainer to me. In addition to leaving nearly $2 billion in Washington, these same House Republicans are indifferent to their constituents who are currently waiting in a queue for medical services available through various charitable providers. Just in case you think this to be an exaggeration, check out the “60 Minutes” segment “On The Road With the Health Wagon.” While you are watching it, I would remind you it was filmed in Virginia – not a third world country. It is available for viewing at http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/affordable-care-for-those-still-uninsured.
On another topic as we get into the month of graduations, Attorney General Mark Herring has taken a bold step to ensure that young immigrants can afford to attend our state colleges and universities while paying in-state tuition rates. It is no small accomplishment for immigrant students to excel academically in our world-class school system. To be denied the opportunity to achieve the American Dream through no fault of their own, is at best unacceptable. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of our upcoming graduates. May they be successful in their future endeavors.
Traveling throughout the district, one cannot help but notice the terrible toll winter has taken on our roads. VDOT has been working hard to keep up with it all while trying to work within its budget. Snow removal blew a hole in the maintenance fund and now patching potholes is widening that imbalance. Generally speaking, when this occurs money from the construction fund is raided. It should come as no surprise that we are more than a little behind on the pothole projects despite the passage of the Transportation Act of 2013. As you know, that initiative was a long-term plan with revenue from many sources including the federal government and bonds.
Many of the local farmer’s markets have reopened. Enjoy the fruit of the fields as we head into summer. I appreciate how engaged the citizens of the 35th Senate District are in the political process and look forward to seeing you in the community. And finally, I would like to send best wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]