Virginia Senate Republican Caucus

Sen. McWaters' General Assembly Wrap-Up

ajohnston's picture
Tue, 2010-03-30 20:00 -- ajohnston
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General Assembly #10 Wrap-Up 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It was perfect -- being elected by you January 12th and starting work on January 13th. Cindy and I got to Richmond early Wednesday morning and by 9 A.M. Delegate Griffith and I videoed the Republican response to Governor Kaine's final State of the Commonwealth Address. It was the last Republican response for four years, and I hope many more! Thank you again for your confidence in allowing me to serve you in the State Senate.  

My first Session was a great experience. A lot of "sage" advice was given to me about going slowly, learning the process, being quiet, and listening. I agreed with all of that... until the second day, when it occurred to me that you sent me with full confidence and clear orders to get things done. I would not wait until next year to introduce important legislation in areas on which I campaigned.

 Jobs

I researched bills, which would help incentivize companies to grow and help people in Virginia. My first bill, SB 693, would have expanded the Major Business Facility Tax Credit to allow businesses to receive up to $10,000 for each new employee over a 25-employee threshold during a five-year period. This proposal was incorporated into SB 472 by the Democratically controlled Senate Finance Committee. It lowered the tax credit threshold to 25 employees in economically distressed areas and 50 employees everywhere else, while keeping the amount at $1,000 to be taken over 3 years. In my opinion, SB 472 is not enough to incentivize job growth.  

I also offered Budget Amendment 96 to expand the Governor's Opportunity Fund to $25 million for fiscal year 2011; the final budget expanded it to $23.9 million. We were glad both the House and Senate recognized the importance of giving Governor McDonnell the tools to attract jobs to the Commonwealth.

Working with the Governor's Office, our most comprehensive bill, SB 733, would have created the Virginia Small Business Investment Credit (VSBIC), which would bring $100 million dollars in private funds to be invested in Virginia's small businesses, with less then 100 employees. To attact investors, the program would have created deferred tax credits starting five years after inception of the program. Similar plans have been created in 10 other states, raising $2.2 billion for small businesses and creating over 21,000 jobs. The bill passed the Senate by an amazing 38 to 2, after alot of bipartisan work. Unfortunately it was defeated in a House Appropriations subcommittee; but, I am optimistic that after a year of discussion we will be abl to pass this program.  

Transportation
The Governor's Office asked me to patron SB 694, which was similar to a bill I had been drafting. This bill would have authorized the Governor to include in his budget proposal additional funds for transportation in years when projected tax revenue growth is a minimum of 3%. Those funds would be at least 1% of the budget or about $140 million. This bill was defeated in the Democratically controlled Senate Finance Committee.  

SB 696 allows uniformed active-duty military personnel in Hampton Roads to use the HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers, subject to Federal approval. This measure will improve our current HOV lane utilization of 40% and helps both the military and the other drivers in Hampton Roads. It passed both the House and Senate with large bipartisan support, and help from Delegate Chris Stolle, M.D.

Lowering the Cost of Government
I introduced SB 697, which would have directed the Department of Medical Assistance Services to expand their managed-care programs throughout the Commonwealth by July 1, 2012. It was killed in the Democratically controlled Health Care subcommittee. Although the bill did not pass, during the interim I will be working with Secretary Hazel to find ways the State can manage its Medicaid programs with the goal of improving access to care and saving the Commonwealth millions of dollars over the long term. The passage of the federal health care reform bill will make this an even more urgent and important matter. My experience with Medicaid has been well received by my colleagues, and for that, I am thankful. 

Budget
The cornerstone of this year's Session was the budget. Upon arrival in Richmond, the Senate Democrats proposed we raise taxes by $1.9 billion to balance the budget. Minority Leader Tommy Norment and the rest of the Senate Caucus asked me to make a floor speech, my first, on why we must not raise taxes. This speech kicked off a skirmish on taxes and responsive speeches for and against a tax increase for the next two weeks. It was clear to me that you sent me to Richmond to cut the cost of government, not increase it. Government needs to find ways to cut back and limit its spending to what it can afford and in responsible ways! Just like Virginia families and businesses.

The original Senate budget gave me a lot of concern, and therefore I voted against it. However, the final budget was a great improvement. It had the following modifications, which I supported: no tax increase, made borrowing from VRS a loan payable over 10 years including interest, restored $7.5 million for land acquisition costs at Oceana, reduced proposed fees from $300 million to $100 million, increased monies in the Governor's Opportunity Fund, and made the proposed State employee one-time salary increase conditional on a revenue surplus, to name a few.  

All in all, we did what you asked by reducing the cost of government by $3.9 billion and borrowing $600 million with no tax increase.

What a wonderful and great learning process the Session was for me. We burned the midnight oil most nights, as we strategized and negotiated for the results you expected. Thanks for sending me on your behalf. I look forward to speaking to you in the TeleTown Hall this Thursday and seeing many of you around the community in the coming weeks and months.

If you support my stands in the Virginia Senate, would you please support my campaign financially? We need funds to pay off campaign loans and continue running an efficient district office. Click here to make an online donation, and thank you in advance for your generosity.

If there is anything my office can ever do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone (757-965-3700) or by email (info@jeffmcwaters.com).

 

Sincerely,

Jeff