As the Virginia bipartisan, bicameral budget amendments deal moves rapidly towards passage (it’s already passed the House of Delegates and should pass the State Senate shortly), Virginia House Democratic Leader explained his reasoning for voting yes (and urging his Democratic colleagues to do the same). See below for video and a transcript of his remarks a little while ago.
“…stay engaged, stay focused on our priorities and were able to reach an agreement that put Virginia families over corporations.
Virginians cannot afford to fund any outrageous or aggressive tax breaks that MAGA extremists wanted to just hand to big corporations.
This budget will make a difference in all of our communities, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on. It protects access to often life-saving abortion services for women with special circumstances and provides funding for community gun violence prevention initiatives. It puts money in the pockets of Virginians, addresses the increasingly high cost of living and works to keep health care costs low. This bill invests in our children and their future by investing in our public education system.
We know some folks thought we’re going to pull a fast one. We know some Republicans had a version of the bill and they introduced a version that added some language amendments that prevent the poorest women who experience tragic fetal abnormalities from having abortions. This is just another attempt to add an additional barrier for women in the Commonwealth to make it harder to access critical and often life-saving reproductive health care. The reality is, for a lot of people across the Commonwealth, Medicaid is often the only way they can access health care – period. To prevent these funds from being used for an abortion was the latest attempt by Republicans, who we know want to ban abortion, that stand in the way of medical decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor only. So we stood in the face of that extremism and protected the fundamental right to abortion services for all women, not just those in the highest tax brackets.
This bill also creates millions in additional funding for gun violence prevention and other initiatives designed to keep our community safe. Democrats, we wanted to put money back in the pockets of Virginians and their families and work to address the high cost of living, instead of prioritizing big corporations. We’re creating tax rebates for families. We’re prioritizing our veterans. As a former veteran myself, a disabled vet at that, it’s important to us that we make sure that we keep it and [attract and retain] our veterans here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
And we’re making sure we reinstate the sales tax holiday that so many Virginia families rely on. We know that the health care system needs work. Most people are one hospital bill away from living in poverty, which is why Democrats work to fund the reinsurance program to ensure that the cost of health health care insurance marketplace premiums are reduced, making sure that families have access to care when they need it most.
Importantly, this budget prioritizes our students over big corporations rather than giving an unnecessary break to these companies that didn’t even ask for it. By the way, we’re investing in our local public schools and investing in our teachers. Over $900 million is going into direct funding to ensure that our children have access to the best resources to succeed in their future.
We’ve done a lot. We’ve prevented folks from whitewashing our history in this bill. To make sure that we protect our teachers, we’ve prevented folks from defunding our K-12 education system and we’ve called them out at every turn for trying to ostracize and demonize and tip line our teachers away from the Commonwealth of Virginia. But we can do better to make sure we keep the best and brightest teachers and staff in our schools.
Despite this historic investment, the JLARC report tells us this is still not enough and more work needs to be done. That’s why it’s surprising that in their original budget, the Republicans wanted to commit a third of what this budget provides teachers, our public education system – one when we have a budget surplus – we need to continue to reinvest funding into our public schools. We cannot hope to regain our status as the number one state for business unless we do more to invest in our public schools because education clears paths and creates opportunity where there otherwise was none. Everyone knows that the easiest way out of poverty is through education – that’s what my mother taught me, that’s what she believed, it’s essentially the American dream. We must continue to prioritize education investments because a thriving and competitive economy is dependent on how we educate and train the next generation.
This budget agreement prioritizes Virginia families, especially our veterans and our children, over the tax cuts that the Republicans wanted to give to big corporations. Every single one voted to give tax cuts to corporations. But we’ve come to our senses and now we’ve made the right investments at the right time for our children.
There’s more work to be done and Democrats are going to continue fighting to fully fund our schools and make Virginia an affordable place for families to thrive. I would urge my colleagues today to support this budget as I will. Thank you Mr Speaker.”