Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Lt. Gov. Bolling: 2013 General Assembly outlook

From Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling...

Today marks the beginning of the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly.  This will be my 18th legislative session – ten years in the State Senate and eight years as Lieutenant Governor.  I am looking forward to the session.

This will be a consequential session that will consider an array of important legislation.  And with the Senate divided 20-20, it’s hard to predict how issues will fall.  We will have to see how the issues work their way through the legislative process, but I am preparing to exercise my tie-break vote again this year!  Last year I cast 31 tie breaking votes, more than any Lieutenant Governor in the history of our state!

However, it is my hope that this year’s session will be less partisan than last year and more focused on working together in a  bi-partisan manner to solve problems and get things done. Here are some of the key issues that will be up for consideration …

Governor McDonnell has proposed a number of amendments to the state budget for the 2014 fiscal year.  We will make certain that we continue to protect the financial foundation of the Commonwealth and manage our state’s finances in a conservative way.  This is all the more important as critical decisions regarding sequestration, which could have a profound impact on Virginia’s economy, are still under consideration in Washington.  We will be watching what happens in Washington closely as we go about drafting the budget for the final year of our administration.

We have been talking about building a transportation system for the 21st century for the past decade.  This is the year to get something done.  Within the next 5 years all of our transportation funds will be needed to address highway maintenance needs and we will have no money for new highway construction.  We must pass a meaningful transportation package this year.  There will be a number of creative ideas to choose from, everything needs to be on the table, and everyone is going to have to be willing to compromise to make an agreement possible.  As a more independent voice in state government, I’m in a unique position to work with leaders of both parties to find that common ground.  This is our best chance and maybe our last chance to get something done. Governor McDonnell is committed to passing a meaningful transportation plan and I hope we will have willing legislative partners to find a workable solution.

Education Reform
Over the past few weeks we have rolled out parts of the Governor’s K12 All Students education reform package.  We are making a real push this year for significant reforms in K-12 education, including a 2 percent pay raise for teachers, incentives for teachers in STEM-H subjects, strategic compensation grants for teachers, and other measures to recruit, retain and reward Virginia's teachers.  We are also focusing on innovation and accountability by supporting teacher innovation and staffing, reforming school report cards and promoting student achievement.  I believe we have put together a good package that focuses on providing more choices for parents and students, improving workforce preparation and trying to put more accountability into our education system.  I have been traveling around the state doing presentations on the K12 All St udents package to business groups because we believe education  is the foundation of economic development.  You can learn more about the K12 All Students initiative here.

Uranium Mining
As I’m sure you know, I recently expressed my opposition to lifting the ban on uranium mining in Virginia.  While lifting the ban may provide some immediate economic benefit to Southern Virginia,  my concern is that it could have long term adverse economic and environmental impacts on the region.  You can read more about my specific position on uranium mining here.  This is an issue that does not fall along traditional partisan lines.  In fact, almost all of the Republicans legislators from Southern Virginia (the area most likely to be impacted by mining) oppose lifting the ban, and the local Chamber of Commerce also opposes lifting the ban.  If legislators and business leaders in the area of the state that arguably has the most to gain from uranium mining are opposed to lifting the ban, I do not believe that politicians in Richmond should lift the ban against their wishes.  I expect this to be a hotly debated issue. 

Health Care
Health Care reform issues will also be front and center during this year’s legislative session.  We will need to make important decisions about expanding Medicaid and  creating a state based Health Insurance Exchange, both of which are associated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.   We do not believe that Virginia should move forward with the proposed expansion of Medicaid until we are able to achieve fundamental reforms of the Medicaid program and determine how we will pay for Virginia’s share of the cost of expansion in the out years.  Likewise, we do not support establishing a state based Health Insurance Exchange until and unless we receive answers from the federal government about how the program would operate and what long term obligations and cost it would create for Virginia.   If these issues can be res olved to our satisfaction, we have reserved the right to revisit these issues during the session.

Independent Voice
As you know, when I suspended my campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for Governor I promised to be a more independent voice on the important issues facing Virginia.  Being removed from the partisan political process has enabled me to speak more candidly about the future of our state without regard to partisan ramifications.  Over the past month you have seen me speak out as a more independent voice on multiple occasions.  I will continue to do so during this year’s legislative session.  My focus will be solely on what is best for Virginia, without regard to politics.  I think we need that kind of independent voice in state government and I am prepared to provide it.


Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling

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