Tammy Mulchi: It was a wasted day

Last week, we returned to Richmond to address two issues. Officially, the session was called to correct an error in the budget that was rushed through last month.

Our commitment to educating the survivors of those who agreed to serve in uniform to protect our nation had been undermined. The fund to pay those education fees is running low on cash. By constitutional standards, the fund can only be replenished by a General Fund deposit appropriated by the General Assembly. Returning was predicated on an agreement with the House and Governor Youngkin to reach a one-year solution to the problem while a longer-term plan could be agreed to in 2025.

After arriving in Richmond, we found the Senate Finance Committee sitting in inaction because the Chairman decided she did not intend to allow the bill to move forward alone. Chairman Lucas decided to block any action unless it was paired with the gaming machine bill that she had co-sponsored in the 2024 session.

The gaming machine bill has many supporters and many others who strongly detest it. During the session, various efforts were made to reach a compromise that could gather enough votes to be acceptable to a majority in both the House and the Senate and that the Governor could support. No compromise could be found.

I oppose these gaming machines, but currently, they are operating in many locations in the state, and we are receiving no tax funds from the millions of dollars flowing through them. No one is pure in this battle.

The casinos want gambling monopolies in the area; the racetrack and its off-track locations also don’t want competition. Meanwhile, individual store owners and truck stops believe they need the additional income to survive.

The gaming companies are quite willing to pay taxes if the state just tells them the rules they can legally operate under. Overall, the public perceives them as a pain as they try to rush into a store and pick up an item or two.

Returning to the lack of action last Tuesday.

The Speaker of the House, realizing the importance of the education issue, is quite willing to call a special session. In an interview Tuesday evening, Speaker Scott stated, “There is shared ownership over this issue that we can all work together on to correct.” Nobody has to use politics to try to take advantage of veterans.

A U.S. Navy veteran himself, the speaker said it’s been unfortunate to see political “grandstanding” take hold in discussions of what the state should do about the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program, which provides higher education tuition waivers and stipends to spouses and children of military members who were killed or severely disabled as a result of their service.

In my opinion, no one Senator should have the power to put families’ lives on hold just to get their way. We can and must be better than what happened this week.

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