The Virginia General Assembly’s House Appropriations Committee met in Suffolk Tuesday and Wednesday for its annual retreat. Among the topics was the dreaded “fiscal cliff” and federal budget negotiations that could affect the state.

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‘Fiscal cliff’ discussed during Suffolk retreat

Published 9:47pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Virginia General Assembly’s House Appropriations Committee held its annual retreat Tuesday and Wednesday at Suffolk’s Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center.

Delegate Chris Jones, a Suffolk resident and one of the more senior members of the committee, hosted the retreat. It rotates around the state, and Jones asked last year to be able to host the meeting, he said.

“It was a good few days of meetings and getting us ready for the session and the governor’s amendments to the budget,” Jones said.

The committee, made up of 22 members appointed by the Speaker of the House, has jurisdiction over all state budget matters. It sets funding priorities for the state, makes recommendations for budget changes and more.

The varied list of topics during the retreat included the state retirement system, affordability of college tuition and the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.”

But perhaps the most pressing issue was the fiscal cliff and associated sequestration, a series of automatic spending cuts at the federal level that go into effect Jan. 1 if a budget deal is not reached by then.

“It can have a huge impact on Virginia, depending on what they do or don’t do,” Jones said. “I think, as with all states and local governments, we’re all waiting anxiously to see what they accomplish between now and the first of the year.”

Part of sequestration includes huge cuts to military spending, which could affect many contractors in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“We have a lot of contractors that are down in the Hampton Roads are, particularly in Suffolk,” Jones said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to present proposed amendments to the state’s biennial budget in mid-December for consideration in the General Assembly session that begins in January. Jones hopes a federal budget deal is reached by then.

“It’s certainly our hope they’ll give us a real indication of what they’re going to do by the middle of December, at the latest, for planning purposes,” Jones said. “We certainly are hopeful they’re going to reach an agreement.”

Even so, the state is moving forward cautiously, Jones said. State agencies have been asked to examine 4-percent budget cuts.

“The bottom line is, until they act, things are pretty much up in the air as to what we’ll be able to do in our budget,” he said. “I think caution is certainly warranted as we approach the upcoming season.”


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