By Senator Lynwood Lewis
This week we reconvened in Richmond for a Special Session called by Governor Northam to address the Budget. This past Session, the Senate and the House were unable to agree upon a Budget. The House Budget contained Medicaid Expansion and was thus able to fund nearly $600 million more in investments and infrastructure. The Senate Budget did not contain Medicaid Expansion and therefore sustained large cuts to the original Governor’s Budget. Because of this discrepancy, the General Assembly adjourned in March without a final Budget.
Unfortunately, we did not vote on a final Budget this past week and likely still will not have an agreed upon Budget to vote on during the upcoming Veto Session. It is expected that we will return in May or June to vote on a final Budget, and I am hopeful that the Budget Committees in both bodies will return with a Budget similar to that of the original House Budget. This Budget allocated funding for several items that would be of great benefit to the Shore, including appropriations for a special advisor to the Governor on Coastal Flooding and Resiliency and my Virginia Waterway Maintenance Fund and Grant Program. If funded, the latter will allow us to begin long-awaited shallow-channel dredging projects on the Shore. The House Budget also included a million dollars for the Eastern Shore Public Library and a much-needed pay raise for Virginia teachers, as well as larger investments in mental health and transportation infrastructure.
At Veto Session, the Senate and the House will take up Bill amendments sent down by the Governor and vote to sustain or override Governor Northam’s vetoes. We will likely also be updated on any progress that has been made on the Budget.
I am aware that the passage of a Budget is critical not only for the Commonwealth but also for localities trying to write and pass their own Budgets. Establishing spending priorities and allocating dollars in Budgets that are already stretched is no small task, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Richmond to ensure we pass a Budget in as timely a manner as possible.
I will be holding public town halls in the coming months throughout the district, including several on the Shore. My office will alert constituents to the times, dates and locations through local news outlets, our Facebook page and our e-mail list. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact my office at email@example.com or 757-787-1094.