Much of this past week involved reviewing and debating the state budget while still considering legislation that has already passed the Senate. As we near the end of session, the pace quickens in the hope that we can adjourn on time. I expect, however, that work on the budget will drag on well past the March 9th adjournment date.

In this update, I have discussed the state budget and efforts to crack down on fentanyl dealers. I hope you find these regular updates informative and useful. As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Budget Update

The state budget process began last December when Governor Youngkin introduced his proposed biennial budget. His proposal included $1 billion in tax reform and the largest K-12 budget in state history.

The House Appropriations Committee, as well as its counterpart in the Senate, spend the first portion of the legislative session drafting amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget. Those amendments and the underlying bill were the topic of debate and a vote on Thursday.

Here’s a few top line points–good and bad–from the proposal voted on in the House:

  • $1.5 billion in tax increases
  • Cuts of $17 million from Project Ceasefire, a data-proven program to fight violent gun crimes
  • Cuts of $11 million from school resource officer (SRO) grants
  • 3% raise for state employees
  • 3.375% raise for teachers

The proposal also sought to cut funding for the Virginia Fusion Center, an agency that coordinates between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to identify and prevent terrorist attacks and other major criminal activities. Republicans were successful in defeating this proposal that would have made our state less safe.

With $1.5 billion in tax increases, I voted “no” on this budget proposal. The state has plenty of money to accomplish its key responsibilities–more revenue is not necessary.

The House and Senate each passed different proposals. In the coming weeks, senior legislators and budget staff will work together to come up with a single budget to be voted on by both chambers. I look forward to carefully reviewing that single budget proposal when it is ready.

Legislation Update

One of the key topics being discussed this legislative session is the ongoing fentanyl crisis. Just recently, police busted six pounds of fentanyl in a North Chesterfield home. That’s enough product to kill all 1.3 million people in the metro Richmond region.

For a number of years now, Republicans have sought to toughen penalties on drug dealers in an attempt to crack down on serious crime. This includes legislation that would charge dealers with murder for knowingly distributing fentanyl. Those efforts have routinely been opposed by legislative Democrats.

Senate Bill 469 would help crack down on fentanyl being distributed in the form of fake prescription pills. Despite an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the Senate, House Democrats opted against giving the bill a hearing. Take a look below at what I had to say on the House floor:

In an acknowledgement that my argument was valid, SB 469 was scheduled for a hearing and subsequently received a favorable vote. It is now being reviewed by the House Appropriations Committee for its fiscal impact.

In the News

Here are a few news articles that you may find of interest:

It is an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates. If I can be of service to you or your family, please let me know.

Mike Cherry