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 Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.
The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.
“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”
The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.
Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.
Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?
Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.
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