From: delsgarrett@tscottgarrett.com
To: nday@dayandco.org
Subject: Week 6 Update from Richmond!

Dear Friends,

The word for the week has been "budget." The most important thing we do in the General Assembly is pass a balanced, fiscally responsible biennial budget. In fact, it is our Constitutional responsibility.

As you may know, the House and Senate each produce their own version of the biennial budget. And for the next two weeks, we will work together to create a final version that will be sent to Governor Northam for his approval prior to becoming law.

In this e-newsletter, I'd like to tell you about the conservative investments the House of Delegates made in the core functions of state government- health, safety, infrastructure, and education. We have consistently focused on these core priorities, rather than creating new or unnecessary programs.

Again, I am grateful for your confidence and look forward to participating in a legislative process that produces good public policy that benefits our district and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

All The Best,

Delegate T. Scott Garrett M.D.

Photo of the Week

I chair a sub-committee for Health, Welfare, and Institutions. It is in sub-committee where most of the detail work on legislation occurs.


K-12 Public Education

The House version of the budget includes $98 million more for K-12 education than former Gov. McAuliffe originally proposed in his final budget. The House proposal targets this money to the classroom and gives local leaders flexibility in its use.

We are fully-funding re-benchmarking (the increase in costs for our current public education system over the next two years), an increase of $480 million for local school systems. This is a sizeable investment that will make sure Virginia's public school systems are preparing our young people to go to college or get the training they need so they can find good-paying jobs.

The House is fulfilling our multi-year commitment to increase the amount of money we send back to local school divisions without any strings attached. The House budget increases the amount of Virginia lottery money being sent to school divisions by $91 million.

There is also a 2% teacher pay raise included in the House version of the budget. This is an $86 million investment in our teachers. The House of Delegates has provided five teacher pay raises since 2013.

Delegate Nick Rush crafted a bi-partisan plan last year that helps protect both rural and urban schools dealing with population challenges. This year, the House budget includes $6 million in additional funding for small school systems struggling with enrollment decline.

And one final highlight of the K-12 public education portion of the House budget is $3.4 million for school security infrastructure upgrades. This program was started in 2013 by the House of Delegates to help local school divisions make critical security upgrades in order to keep our children safe.


Growing Our Economy

Instead of flashy headlines and handing out big checks at jobs announcements, the House focused in recent years on reforming funadmental investments in economic development. Our budget builds on that long-term approach to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and business growth that will lead to good paying jobs for our people.

The House budget provides for $350 million to dredge the Port of Virginia, widening and deepening the Port so Virginia can continue to lead in international imports and exports. This includes $20 million for planning and engineering and a $330 million bond authorization to begin the dredging.

Broadband development is a necessary aspect of infrastructure critical to building out our economy in ruarl parts of the state. Accordingly, the House included more than $4 million in our budget for broadband development.

GO Virginia is a bipartisan, business-led economic development initiative that is changing the way Virginia’s diverse regions collaborate on economic and workforce development activities. GO Virginia supports programs to create more high-paying jobs through incentivized collaboration between business, education, and government to diversify and strengthen the economy in every region of the Commonwealth. The House budget increases by $15 million state funding for the GO Virginia initiative.


Healthcare Reform

I have consistently voted AGAINST Obamacare Medicaid expansion, due to the unsustainable costs of the current Medicaid program and my concerns about Washington's commitment to pay for most of the expansion. Those concerns are not going away, but with Congress's inability thus far to repeal and replace Obamacare- and the new political reality in Richmond- the topic of Medicaid expansion has overwhelmed our budget conversations and priorities.

Hear me when I say: if the House of Delegates does NOTHING with our Medicaid program this year, we could very well end up with straight Obamacare Medicaid expansion without ANY reforms, or end up in a Washington-style budget impasse that we cannot afford. Unfortunately, there are a few of my colleagues who have publicly stated they will support Medicaid expansion no matter the design. This is simply unacceptable to me. You elected me to represent you and your family- and that includes protecting your hard-earned tax dollars. While I remain hesitant about expansion, I cannot ignore our duty to have a balanced budget and to fund the core essential functions of state government.

The House budget includes language to require Virginia to begin working with the Trump Administration to use federal Medicaid funds to provide health insurance to low-income Virginians, while ensuring key conservative reforms- like a work requirement, cost-sharing, and personal responsibility incentives- are included. The budget also includes a "Taxpayer Safety Switch," stating that if the federal government ever backs out of its commitment to pay its 90% share of the cost, the new plan will end and people will be disenrolled from the program.

My longstanding concerns with the cost of Medicaid expansion aren't going away, but unfortunately the Affordable Care Act isn't going away either. The Trump Administration is the best chance we have to secure conservative, responsible reforms to the Medicaid program.

The House budget also funds six new Crisis Intervention Team ("CIT") assessment centers. These assessment centers are a non-criminal justice setting where persons with mental illness can be taken by law enforcement officers in lieu of arrest or incarceration. The Assessment Center is designed to enable police officers or sheriff’s deputies to take a person experiencing a mental health crisis for quick and appropriate mental health assessment and therapeutic treatment. They allow for the best and fastest outcome for the mental health consumer and a quick return of officers to their regular law enforcement duties.

And a final highlight of the House budget is the additional funding for 825 waiver slots for those with intelectual and developmental disabilities, continuing our long-term commitment to supporting those with behavioral health needs.



District Visitors

It was a pleasure to welcome the "Boys with a Dream" group from Bedford! Sheriff Mike Brown brought the group to Richmond to see how laws are made. I enjoyed visiting with them in my office (we passed around the Budget book) and introduced them to the House from the floor.

Lesley McPhatter of Amherst County brought dieticians to Richmond and I enjoyed talking with them about health issues.

Dr. Doug Schuch, Superintendent for Bedford County Public Schools, came by to tell me about some innovative techniques being utilized in Bedford

This is just a sampling of our guests from the week. Thanks to everyone who visited from home this week! Seeing friends and neighbors while here in Richmond makes my week a lot brighter!

As always, if you are planning to visit Richmond during the General Assembly Session, please contact my legislative aide, Sarah Owen, by calling (804) 698-1023 or by email at DelSGarrett@house.virginia.gov.

Paid and Authorized by Friends of Scott Garrett