Hi, this is Rob Bloxom with this week’s report from the Capitol. I am going to concentrate on items that emerged from the budget conferee committee that pertains to the 100th District. I put in an amendment for a Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) study for a gas pipeline for the Eastern Shore which was successful. It is $200,000 to study the viability and explore business contracts to support the construction of a natural gas mainline into Accomack County. The sewer extension was included in Governor Northam’s budget, but we made some adjustments to the award amount and increased the coverage area. The towns of Exmore and Wachapreague received the amount that would be needed to connect to the sewer line of Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD). I also requested the funds include Accomac and Parksley. These extensions are designed to connect commercial users in the towns and along the path of the pipe. This infrastructure is crucial for new development. All in all, the state’s investment towards the central sewer will be $11.9 million dollars to supplement the $25 million the HRSD is investing.
The housing tax credit for low or moderate income rental properties is the next topic which goes along with the central sewer installation. I had a bill that died in the Appropriations Committee because the stackability of the credits over ten years created such a long and large liability. The State of Virginia’s budget is a two year document so it was not able to be worked out quickly. The other reason my bill had to die in committee is due to a senior democratic Senator had the companion bill so from a negotiation point of view, it was advantageous for her to carry this legislation. This tax credit mates with the Federal Housing Tax Credit to incentivize private equity to invest in this type of housing. The fact that we will have central sewer to allow more density will drive the cost of construction down and should help address the rental shortage on the Shore. The part of the tax credit that I insisted on being part of the equation was the 30 percent of the tax credits be used in rural areas.
The Shore will also share in the Waterway Management Fund. This was increased to $26 million over a two-year period. Specific to the Shore, $5 million was allocated to the new, local dredging project fund. This will be shared between the Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore.
The hardest fought battle and the last thing included in the budget was the salary adjustment for teachers. The adjustment, known as “COCA”, or the cost of competing adjustment, is automatic for Northern Virginia teachers that work in Maryland’s adjacent counties. Since we border Maryland, the argument should be the same. Accomack County was included in the Senate version but not in the House version. It was not until the last day when the conference report was agreed to that both Accomack and Northampton counties were included for one year. This means that every year I will be fighting this battle for our public school teachers.
The last big win for the Eastern Shore was the amendment and the subsequent language that pays off the $6 million bond left on the seafood market in Melfa. The ownership of this property will be transferred to the Accomack County Economic Development Authority (EDA). This property was previously controlled by the Virginia Agricultural Department which was constrained on how it could be leased. The maintenance on a vacant building was costing too much, so the Virginia Agriculture Department agreed to let the EDA take ownership. The EDA will not have the same constraints on leasing or using the building.
In closing, I must say that the Eastern Shore had a banner year. I would like to thank Senator Lewis for his efforts in helping contact the Senate budget conferees and making our case for these worthwhile appropriations. As always, I welcome you to contact me with any questions or concerns at my district office at (757)824-3456, my Richmond office at (804)698-1000 or email me at [email protected].