Budget would boost teacher pay, Medicaid waivers
The Virginia House of Delegates released its proposed amendments to the 2012-2014 state budget Sunday, seeking to pump more money into the commonwealth’s “rainy day” fund, education and Medicaid.
The proposals include a $95 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund, which is used for contingencies. The plan also would provide $45 million for pay raises for teachers and school support staff, funding for school security and funding for an addition 250 Medicaid waiver slots.
“On the heels of the news that our national economy shrunk in the last quarter of 2012, it’s important that we continue to exercise fiscal discipline,” said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox, R-Colonial Heights, who is also vice-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Cox said the $95 million rainy day fund includes $45 million more than Gov. Bob McDonnell called for. This would prepare Virginia for economic challenges that might lie ahead, Cox said.
House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, commended the plan that emerged from the House Appropriations Committee.
“This is a conservative and responsible budget that makes targeted investments in our core areas of need and focuses on our governing priorities: jobs, K-12 and higher education, public safety and health care,” Howell said.
The 250 Medicaid slots added by the budget would create 200 Intellectual Disability waivers and 50 Development Disability waivers, according to Delegate Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell. The budget specifically includes $7.7 million for ID and DD Medicaid waivers.
“Protecting the health care safety net for less fortunate Virginians is absolutely critical,” Ingram said.
The budget also includes $2.5 million in targeted economic development incentives to create the Cyber Accelerator program, which state officials hope will attract cyber security companies to Virginia and will be managed by the state’s Center for Innovative Technology.
The allocation would also increase the cap by $500,000 for angel investor tax credit, a credit system to help individual investors in early-stage businesses.
“In the past three years, we have invested over $100 million in concentrated economic development and watched our unemployment rate drop to 5.5 percent,” said Delegate Steve Landes, R-Augusta, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s economic development subcommittee. “But we know there is more work to do.”
Funding Cyber Accelerator and expanding the angel investor tax credit are just two ways that efforts are being made to create a good climate for job creation, Landes said.
For education, the House’s proposed budget expands on McDonnell’s proposed 2 percent pay raise for teachers and includes support staff. The proposed funding totals $62 million. The budget also includes $12 million for higher education enrollment growth and $3.7 million to increase Virginia Tuition Assistance grants from $2,800 to $3,100 per student.
“As they grow older, we want to make sure all of our students have the opportunity to attend a Virginia college or university” said Delegate Bob Tata, R-Virginia Beach, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on K-12 education. “Expanded funding to encourage enrollment growth and TAG grants are two important parts of achieving that goal.”
School and public safety were also mentioned in the budget. House Republicans announced Friday that there would be $31 million for this purpose. The budget includes $1.7 million for school resource officers and $30 million for school security improvements.
“We want to reward and recognize our teachers because the selfless work they do is critical to the education of our young people,” Tata said. “Educating our young people is critical to Virginia’s long-term economic development.”
The House of Delegates is expected to vote on its budget proposal Feb. 7.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”
The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.
The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.
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