Delegate Bloxom updates on final outcome in Richmond

May 22, 2024
 |
Delegate Rob Bloxom
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By Delegate Rob Bloxom

This is Rob Bloxom with the final report on the 2024 legislative session. We returned to Richmond to complete our unfinished work on the two year budget. We set a deadline for May 13 because we understand that local governments are dependent on our budget to set their budget for the upcoming year. We were at an impasse on the first rendition of the budget. The budget that was sent to the Governor included an expansion of sales tax to include digital downloads and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI. The Governor’s original budget that was sent to us at the beginning of the session had an expansion of this same tax, although not as expansive, but it also included tax cuts. The Governor had previously secured a structural change in the tax code that nets Virginians a decrease in taxes in the amount of two billion dollars a year. The Democrats would not entertain any more tax cuts as they had priorities that they wanted funded. 

Before the veto session, the Governor and the Democrats were talking about their respective positions on the budget and talking about each other, but not to each other. At the veto session, we agreed to do a redo on the budget and agreed that all would refrain from getting on social media as well as discussing what was happening to the press. To my surprise and delight, all involved parties complied. This started a weekly trip schedule to Richmond for one or two days a week. The deduction of the sales tax expansion from the budget left a budget shortfall of 1.2 billion dollars. We were also fortunate that the collection for taxes was above the forecast and that closed the hole by 525 million dollars. We gained around 110 million dollars in the budget because of legislation vetoed by the Governor. The rest of the gap was closed by bonding money for capital expenses. This was completed with the stipulation that any additional money would replace the borrowed capital with cash. There are raises for teachers, state employees, and state supported positions with no new taxes. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was also removed. 

The Eastern Shore did well in the new biennial budget. I had specific project list when entering the session, but had to leave that list in order to move quickly to save a project the Governor’s team had been working on for the Eastern Shore. The majority party stripped the budget of most of the Governor’s priorities, including the blast zone protection around Wallops Island. Without a truly protected blast zone, the future of rocket launches would be in jeopardy. Furthermore, without having rocket launches, it would be impossible to warrant a natural gas pipeline or a northern central sewer collection system. I had to use a lot of political capital to get it reinstated into the budget. I also need to thank Virginia Space for sending an envoy within the twelve hours of my call to help me lobby staff of the importance of it. 

Some other important items to the Eastern Shore include a pay supplement for our public school teachers because of our close proximity to Maryland. This was included in the 2024 caboose bill as well as the 2025-2026 biennial budget. Another big win was to get the Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Painter included in the planning pool. This gives them money to do detailed cost estimates and drawings of a new facility. The last project I will mention concerns the airport hangar. This project went beyond the budgeted amount, and this amendment helps complete the project.

These are the highlights from the budget. I was honored to be a conferee on the budget, and although I was in the minority, I felt that the democratic majority listened to my concerns and issues, it resulted in an effective bipartisan compromise. You may contact me at 757-824-3456 or stop by Bloxom Auto Supply Company in Mappsville. Again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you in the one hundredth district.

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June 13, 2024, 10:05 pm
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