Crossover came and went this week without any major hiccups. The House of Delegates finished its business around 1:30 pm, and the Senate followed at around 4:30 pm. We will spend the next three weeks of session working on the remaining bills and hammering out a budget compromise.

On Sunday, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee will release its budget. We’ve been working away trying to reconcile the major problems we have to address with the unbalanced budget the Governor produced. Suffice it to say, we will reject a number of his ideas. We have a bicameral legislature, so the ideas are not necessarily dead for the year, they just were not adopted in the Senate budget.

The budget we announce on Sunday will not include a general sales tax increase nor will it include an income tax cut. And as people already know, the proposed arena project for Alexandria will also be excluded from the Senate budget. The arena has been the Governor’s major attempt to leave a legacy and a mark on Virginia. Candidly, major league sports in Virginia would probably be a good thing. Not only would it create excitement, but it would create economic growth and jobs. However, it has to be done correctly. The current plan is flawed in a couple of serious respects.

  1. First, it calls for the issued bonds to be secured by the “full faith and credit” of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This puts Virginia on the hook for repayment of the bonds in the event the gamble on a successful arena does not pay off. It may not sound like a huge risk, because, of course, a major league sports team will work in Alexandra. But I want to remind you that very few people predicted we’d have a major pandemic that would shut down major portions of the economy for a long stretch of time resulting in alarming trends that would ripple through our economy for years. Frankly, we probably won’t recover completely for a long time. If there is another pandemic, a major natural disaster, or an economic depression, Virginia would be required to pay back that funding. This could put Virginian’s AAA bond rating in jeopardy. Virginia is the only state that has maintained AAA bond rating every year since 1938, when the rating agencies began to evaluate states. However, it is not only a source of pride. The rating gives us the ability to borrow money at the cheapest rate possible for construction projects across the Commonwealth whether that be academic facilities at our colleges and universities, improvements at a state park, or a new office building for a state agency.
  2. The second big issue relates to traffic, which is already a significant problem in northern Virginia. We are constantly called to find new sources of funding for the Metro and to deliver new transportation modes throughout the region. The traffic jams and failing transportation infrastructure in northern Virginia are daunting, and we cannot ignore the impact this project would have on the already overburdened system. The Governor’s plan simply does not adequately address the transportation needs related to the arena project and does not include funding for necessary improvements to transit in the Potomac Yard area.

The long and short of it is that the arena could be very good for Virginia, but the details of the plan matter. So far, the Governor’s staff has been unwilling to negotiate on the full faith and credit issue. They have failed to come up with a workable transportation plan. Until those problems are solved, I am afraid that the arena is a nonstarter in the Senate of Virginia.

Most of the bills I introduced this year have passed the Senate and are awaiting action in the House of Delegates. One was incorporated into another legislator’s bill and some were put off for another year.

In particular, I am disappointed that my efforts to help us meet our goals for the development of renewable energy were unsuccessful. Both of the ideas I put forward – the treating of siting industrial solar and wind more like the way we deal with other power generators and increasing competition for the development of offshore wind – did not pass. The bills were referred to the Commission for Energy Utility Regulation for review over the next year. Hopefully the ideas will be refined, and we will develop better ideas for how we as a Commonwealth are going to meet our long-term energy goals.

Three busy weeks remain in the 2024 Session. The Senate has a short period of time to act on the remaining legislation passed by the House of Delegates at the same time we are negotiating a final budget. The House will release its budget on Sunday as well. The budget bills will move quickly through the process in order to get the legislation into conference, so that conferees can begin work on developing a compromise.

What I have found over the years is that just because a bill or an idea dies, does not mean that it is fully dead. A lot of things can be resurrected in the budget. So, it pays to be alert and involved throughout the process.

It remains my high honor to serve you in the Senate of Virginia. If I can be of service to you or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 804-698-7525 or at senatordeeds@senate.virginia.gov.

Best,

Creigh

P.S. Please see the flyer below about a rally in Richmond on Saturday, February 24th!