The 2020 Session of the General Assembly is now past crossover. The Senate and House of Delegates both acted on the budget this week beginning with the release of subcommittee reports on Sunday by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. The final two weeks of the session will be spent trying to reconcile the differences between bills that passed, including the budget.
Every legislator works to set forth priorities in the budget. This year I’m happy to say that many of my long sought goals are reflected in the Senate version of the budget. Notable among them are increased funding for community services boards and permanent supportive housing. We know the best way to provide people stability and a real opportunity for recovery is to provide supportive housing. We have dramatically increased funding for that service over the years, and this year’s budget reflects that continued commitment.
A long-standing problem with our Medicaid program is our lack of coverage for dental services for adults. We all know that oral health is critical to overall health. Infections in the mouth can lead to deterioration of overall health and even death. The increased cost to our healthcare system and the loss of productivity is significant. The Senate budget adopted this week finally provides this essential coverage for adults on Medicaid. This action will put us in line with the majority of states in the country.
Virginia has the best state park system in the country, and I have always explored ways to improve our state parks and expand opportunities for Virginians and visitors to explore our beautiful natural resources. The Senate budget includes $376,000 a year to increase staffing at Natural Bridge State Park. Notably the Senate also includes language to begin the process of converting the Hayfield Farm in Highland County into a state park. This is a long-term project, as there are a number of potential park sites in the pipeline already. But we are closer to establishing the state park, which I believe will be transformational in terms of economic activity in Highland County.
We were also able to obtain a language amendment to preserve funding for Jackson River Enterprises in Covington. We also protected the funding that the Governor put in the budget to incorporate Green Pastures in Alleghany County into Douthat State Park. Preserving Green Pastures is critical to preserving our heritage. My effort to obtain state funding for Biscuit Run Park was not successful.
I sponsored a few other budget amendments to address some issues in the 25th District. The Senate budget adopted an amendment to provide money in the second year should Alleghany and Covington decide to consolidate the school systems. Finally, while the Senate did not provide funding for the Nelson County Library, we did provide an additional $1 million for libraries statewide.
You can review all budget amendment requests and those adopted by the committee here. For a comparison of some key issues in the Governor’s introduced budget and the House and Senate proposals by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a nonprofit in Richmond, see here.
In the closing weeks, I look forward to hearing your views on legislation. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office at (804) 698-7525 or [email protected].