Tammy Mulchi: Let’s talk about the budget

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Wow! What a week. I had the opportunity to vote on the budget and work on bills passed by the House this past week.

This year is what we consider a long session so we can address the budget, arguably one of the most important issues we tackle in the General Assembly. After the budget amendments left the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, we were able to pull different line items out and vote on them individually. As it stands now, this biannual budget will most likely contain $63 billion of General Fund money. While the budget is far from perfect, it is a work in process as we negotiate with the House. I want to assure you that I will be keeping my promise to do everything in my power to lower our taxes and fight for all Rural Virginians.

There are plenty of line items that I was proud to have supported in the Budget. One item that I know is important to all rural Virginians is additional funding to help with the expansion of broadband. At this point in our society, access to the Internet is vital to expand business in the Commonwealth and help all Virginians get ahead. This funding is a critical first step to helping all rural Virginians.

Additionally, our schools and teachers will receive a much-needed pay raise along with direct aid. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that our teachers are taken care of so they can continue to prioritize our children. I am proud to have supported additional funding for our teachers. Finally, we were able to secure funding to improve public safety in the Commonwealth by prioritizing the recruitment and retention of correctional officers to keep prisons safe and orderly.

Unfortunately, not everything in the Senate budget was good for Virginians. Democrats deemed it necessary to fund legislation allowing violent criminals with long sentences to petition the courts for early release. Additionally, they not only removed the much-needed tax relief that Governor Youngkin included in his budget but also increased taxes on digital downloads and streaming. This is not the direction we need to be going, especially during a time of rampant inflation and a struggling economy. We need to put more money back in the pockets of Virginians, not continue to take tax dollars to fund partisan pet projects.

In a recent setback to educational advancement, the Senate budget also pulled out Governor Youngkin’s funding for new lab schools in the state. I voted against this; these schools are important for our communities. Lab schools are an innovation hub for career exploration and workforce development. They focus on progressive learning, catering to preschoolers through grade 12. These schools encourage performance-based educational programs, establish high standards for teachers and administrators, encourage greater collaboration between pre-kindergarten and postsecondary program providers, and develop model programs. Lab schools have been something I have been trying to bring to Mecklenburg, and I feel they would be beneficial throughout the district. I have been working with the Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera on this initiative and was greatly disappointed to see it omitted. I hope Governor Youngkin revisits this decision and reinstates funding for lab schools in the final budget. 

In addition to the budget, we were busy working on House bills this week. One good bill that passed out of the Senate was HB 1269. This bill will be a good way to help those who are struggling with drug addiction by allowing individuals who have previously been convicted of minor drug offenses to be hired in adult substance abuse programs as peer recovery specialists.

Provided that they have been in good standing for 5 years after a conviction. I believe this will be a great way to show those struggling with substance abuse that there is a path forward by allowing those who have been in their shoes to guide them out of their addiction. In my opinion, there is no better teacher than someone with personal experience in a subject. 

Tammy Mulchi serves as the District 9 state senator. She can be reached at senatormulchi@senate.virginia.gov or by calling 804-698-7509.