Local Commentary

Delegate Simon’s Richmond Report

simon-mug4webYesterday, the General Assembly completed the 2016 Reconvene Session wherein we voted on the Governor’s 32 vetoes and recommendations. This being the first year of the 2016-2018 Biennial Budget, we also reviewed the Governor’s additional recommendations for the budget.

As a member of the House of Delegates I work hard to do what’s right for all Virginians, regardless of where they live. As your representative in Richmond, I also have a responsibility to and take great pride in looking out for the priorities of my constituents and the localities I represent.

With the state budget, I am particularly concerned with making sure that we get some sort of return on the significant amount of state income taxes we send to Richmond.

I attended a forum earlier this year hosted by the Falls Church City Republican Committee where a number of residents raised their concerns about the way the state’s funding formula for distributing education funds, known as the Local Composite Index (LCI), disadvantages the City.

This year, we did makes some progress to increase funding for K-12 education in our state budget, and I was pleased to see that we did our best to do that through increasing funds that are distributed on a per-pupil basis, rather than those that are subject to the LCI.

While I voted against the over $105 billion budget because it once again failed to expand Medicaid, it did do a number of good things for Northern Virginia and Falls Church and Fairfax County in particular.

Here in greater Falls Church, we are justifiably proud of our outstanding public schools. That said, we’ve struggled with funding shortages for many years now, as the great recession has taken a severe toll on our revenue and therefore state support for K-12 and higher education.

In the new biennial budget, however, the City of Falls Church will receive $6.7 million in direct aid from the state, up from $5.86 million last year. An increase of about $460 per student. In much larger Fairfax County funding increased by $34 million.

The budget also restores $34.4 million for cost of competing adjustment for Northern Virginia schools.

On a statewide basis the budget included language to increase the state’s share of teacher pay by a $134.4 million for a two-percent salary increase.
In addition to increased funding for elementary education, Falls Church won another budget battle. Language was included in the budget to keep 100 percent of fines and fees collected by the local police department here in Falls Church, rather than having to send it down to Richmond and pray for its safe return.

As I said, despite the good news on education funding, I couldn’t bring myself to vote yes on a budget that continues to shun over $6 million per day in federal taxes we’ve already paid. Virginians are set to lose $3 billion over the biennium because we are not getting our tax dollars back from the federal government and we are having to pay for programs that would have been covered under the expansion.

Let’s try to finish this month’s column on a high note, though.

In October, Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion that said that the General Assembly never explicitly gave police departments the authority to mail tickets for illegally passing a school bus based on evidence obtained from cameras mounted on the stop signs.

Legislation to allow those tickets to be mailed, just as they are for red light cameras that catch people at intersections, passed the General Assembly this year and has been signed by the Governor. So, at $250 a ticket, there may be more revenue available in the upcoming fiscal year.

More importantly, drivers will be deterred from the very dangerous practice of passing a school bus while children are getting on or coming off.

 


Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]