Delegate Simon's Richmond Report
Submitted June 20, 2014
Because I told you before, Oh, you can't do that.
~ The Beatles, "You Can't Do That"
Well, these first six months as your Delegate in Richmond certainly have been interesting.
Shortly after being sworn into office in January, I got an up close and personal opportunity to witness:
With the Senate power shift came a call for the General Assembly to meet and vote on a budget last Thursday. This budget addressed our looming revenue shortfall, but not closing the health insurance coverage gap.
In fact, Senators Dick Black and William Stanley introduced amendments which effectively killed the possibility of Medicaid expansion; it says No to expansion through this budget, No to expansion through the MIRC, and No to expansion through executive action by the governor.
"No, you can't do that" agreed the Republican leadership. Both the Senate and the House voted to adopt this language in passing the budget.
The budget that the General Assembly sent to Governor McAuliffe closes a two-year $1.5 Billion revenue shortfall by maintaining spending at last year's level and drawing heavily on the Commonwealth's rainy day fund. Because of the questionable power shift and Senator Stanley's amendment, this budget does not provide money or a mechanism to expand Medicaid to close the coverage gap affecting 400,000 uninsured Virginians.
I voted No on the budget deal agreed to by Republican leaders in the Senate and House of Delegates because it fails to draw on $1.8 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth under the Affordable Care Act to close that coverage gap. Given the fiscal situation the Commonwealth finds itself in, I found that decision to be unconscionable.
These funds would have provided health care coverage to the working poor, created an estimated 30,000 well-paying jobs in the Commonwealth, and prevented hospitals from having to close their doors. All at a time when Virginia tax revenues are predicted to be down this year by $870.9 Million out of a $17.165 Billion yearly Discretionary Budget.
One of the major causes of the revenue short fall was that final tax payments for tax year 2013 fell 26% compared to an assumed flat forecast. This is largely attributable to Virginians deciding to realize capital gains at the end of 2012 as the result of uncertainty about future capital gains rates created during "fiscal cliff" negotiations at the federal level.
The taxes on those 2012 transactions came due in May of 2013, inflating our revenue collections based on a one time phenomenon. Unfortunately, the outgoing administration failed to recognize the one-time nature of our 2013 revenue spike. Instead they built a budget on the assumption that the level of collections would remain unchanged. When data on actual receipts for 2014 became available, it was clear that the projected revenue was not materializing.
To keep the budget balanced, we will need money from the rainy day fund, and level fund state agencies across the board and, on top of that, cut hundreds of millions in new spending included in Governor McDonnell's proposed budget (remember that he was still Governor when the biennial budget was first put forward in January.) Some examples include a 16% cut in Administration, Finance, Legislative, and Judicial areas; a 14% cut to K-12 spending, and a whopping 23% reduction in Higher Ed spending.
However, some areas of the budget were protected.
Both the House and Senate included an increase in funding to the State Employee Health Insurance plan, which means members of Virginia's part-time legislature will continue to enjoy one of the richest and most robust employer provided insurance policies money can buy, but we did not include any mechanism to allow the Commonwealth to close the coverage gap.
The Speaker has called the House back into Session on Monday, June 23 at 5:00 p.m. to consider any line item vetoes or amendments from Governor McAuliffe. I hope and expect that the governor will have a large number of amendments to target spending cuts more intelligently than the across the board approach taken by my colleagues in the House and Senate, and find a way to restore language to close the gap.
I'll be there to do my best to make sure the General Assembly's response won't be "It's like we told you before, no you can't do that."
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at
Yours in service,