General Assembly wraps up a good session

Published 7:34 pm Saturday, February 28, 2015

The 2015 General Assembly adjourned ahead of schedule on Friday, completing work on hundreds of bills, including the state budget and legislation I introduced to further reform our transportation system.

This is the first time the General Assembly has adjourned early in 15 years, a testament to the hard work of members in both parties and both houses.

One of the biggest reasons we were able to adjourn early is because we completed work on the state budget ahead of schedule. As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I am not only proud of the budget we passed, but also the manner in which we passed it.

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The budget was completed nearly a week before we were scheduled to adjourn and presented to members of the House and Senate on Feb. 24. The budget was posted online for 48 hours, providing greater transparency for the public, before being adopted by a 95-5 vote on Thursday.

The goal of the Appropriations Committee is to adopt a structurally balanced budget that makes strategic investments in key priorities. This budget does that.

Following last year’s budget shortfall, I worked with my colleagues in the House and Senate to put together a budget proposal that spends nearly $1 billion less from the general fund, eliminates fees and debt proposed by the governor and makes significant investments in our state employees, higher education and the healthcare safety net.

The budget funds a 1.5-percent teacher pay raise, a 2-percent, across-the-board pay raise for state employees and state troopers, including funding to address salary compression, a 2-percent pay raise for state-supported local employees and a 2-percent pay raise for college faculty.

As part of our effort to make college more affordable and accessible, we increased funding for higher education by $42 million, including $19 million to create new in-state tuition spots, $10 million for financial aid and $5 million for faculty research.

These investments will strengthen Virginia’s economy and make sure our young people are ready to compete in the international economy.

In addition to the state budget, I am also pleased to report that several other bills I introduced passed this year, including bills to increase oversight over public-private partnership transportation projects like U.S. Route 460 and to overhaul how we divide our transportation dollars.

I have consistently expressed my concerns over the poorly-managed Route 460 project for several years. This year, I worked with my colleagues in the legislature and Gov. Terry McAuliffe to craft a bill that increases oversight on projects like 460.

I believe P3 projects are an important tool that when used correctly can improve our transportation system. But we needed to take steps to protect taxpayer dollars, and I am confident this bill will improve that process.

I also carried legislation that fundamentally reforms how we divide up our transportation funding.

The historic transportation funding and reform bill passed in 2013 has given Virginia the additional resources necessary to build a 21st century transportation network. But we have to make sure we spend that money wisely.

House Bill 1887 streamlines and simplifies our transportation funding formula, sending more money to localities, instead of leaving it in Richmond. Under this new formula, Hampton Roads will receive $15 million more for local construction projects compared to the old formula. The bill also reduces more than 10 funding streams to just three, making it easier to follow transportation spending.

The General Assembly is also making progress on reforms to Virginia’s Line of Duty Act. The Line of Duty Act is a program that provides health, disability and death benefits to law enforcement and first responders injured or killed in the line of duty.

Unfortunately, this program is unsustainable as designed, with costs expected to double in eight years. My legislation will convene the various stakeholder groups to find consensus for reforms that will preserve the program for future generations.


It is an honor to serve as your delegate in Richmond. I am proud of the work we were able to accomplish this year. We enacted reforms to strengthen our transportation system. We passed a balanced budget that invests in our priorities. And we adjourned ahead of schedule. The 2015 session was a successful one for the people of the commonwealth.

Chris Jones (R-76) is from Suffolk. Email him at