How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weekly Column: A State Budget, A Federal Grand Jury, and Court Challenges

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 24, 2014.
A State Budget, A Federal Grand Jury, and Court Challenges

The last two weeks in Richmond have been unusually busy.  

First, ethics are back at the forefront.  in the wake of the resignation of State Senator Phil Puckett and change in control of the State Senate, the new state budget was written under one-party control.  A $1.6 billion shortfall due to lagging income tax collections forced cuts which I detailed two weeks ago:  K-12, higher education, affordable housing, healthcare, and funding for continued planning for improvements on U.S. 1 was removed from the budget.

Last week, press reports suggest a Federal grand jury was summoned to investigate the resignation of Senator Puckett and allegations that a judgeship for this thirty-three year-old daughter and a six-figure job at the Virginia Tobacco Commission were offered in exchange for his resignation. The lack of any state investigation spotlights the weakness of the ethics reforms we just passed.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vetoes Drop and Virginia Moves Forward

This morning Governor Terry McAuliffe announced seven vetoes and other administrative actions.  In summary, he has vetoed legal prohibitions to expanding Medicaid and he is moving forward on Medicaid expansion due to political obstruction.

Administrative Action
First, the Governor announced that he is going to expand Medicaid administratively using his power as Chief Executive.  There was bipartisan support to do this legislatively, but the most conservative members of the House of Delegates were blocking it.

He has directed the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to have plans drawn up by September 1, 2014.

He has also directed officials to hold all plans to construct a new $300 million General Assembly Building. He said that he cannot support this construction while Virginia cuts funding from homelessness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekly Column: No Medicaid, U.S. 1 Cut, and a Frustrating Week

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 16, 2014.
No Medicaid, U.S. 1 Cut, and a Frustrating Week
Last  week was one of the most frustrating weeks in the General Assembly since my 2009 election.

First, on Sunday afternoon, we learned that Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett from Southwest Virginia had announced his resignation to be considered for a job on the Virginia Tobacco Commission and clear the way for a judgeship for his 33- year-old daughter.  This effectively gave the Virginia State Senate a Republican majority (20-19). 

On Monday, 21 senators signed a letter requiring the Senate reconvene and the Speaker called the House of Delegates back for a session on Thursday.
When we arrived in Richmond on Thursday, we got more disappointing news.  Apparently, the state’s revenue projections for purposes of building the FY14-15 budget were off because of incorrect assumptions.  The primary problem was that revenue collections were up last year because wealthy taxpayers recognized significant increased income from stock liquidations done in anticipation of increased capital gains tax rates.  The budget experts did not consider this in preparing this year’s revenue projections.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finalizing a State Budget - Not Pretty

The new proposed amendments to the state budget are now up online.  You can see them here:


The biggest issue is that revenue collections came in well below what was expected largely due to lagging capital gains tax revenues.  The overall shortfall is expected to be about $1.6-$2.0 billion.

What follows below is my initial impressions of what has changed versus Governor McDonnell's introduced budget.  Don't kill me if there are a couple mistakes.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Weekly Column: Five Myths About Medicaid Expansion

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 4, 2014.
Five Myths About Medicaid Expansion
As the deadline to pass a budget approaches, Virginians will likely hear that state government could shut down because of a stalemate over expanding Virginia’s Medicaid program as encouraged by the Affordable Care Act.  I would like to clear up a few misconceptions. 
Myth #1 – Virginia’s Medicaid Stalemate Is a Partisan Dispute
               There have been media reports that the Medicaid expansion fight is a Democrat-versus-Republican battle.  It is not.
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