Updates From George

Yesterday, I returned from three days in Richmond, where on Tuesday the Senate passed a budget.

Election day has come and gone and the contentious recount in the race for Attorney General has been completed. Legislative sessions can be unpredictable—indeed, if you had asked me whether last year would have yielded the largest investment in transportation funding in decades I would have said no. I reserve the right to be wrong about this upcoming session as well, but here’s what I suspect awaits us.

What made the 2013 legislative session such a resounding success?

When I have come back from Richmond the previous five years, I’ve gone around the district talking with groups about the positive steps forward we made on various issues but also discussing some of the major issues, such as transportation, that we tried to tackle, only to fail to reach agreement. This year, however, despite great skepticism that we would do anything significant on either issue, we made huge progress on both transportation and Medicaid. What was the difference?

In the early days of the legislative session that recently ended, I held a town hall where I was asked what I thought the chances were of making real progress on transportation, arguably the biggest issue facing Virginia.  I answered honestly that it was unlikely that we would see big changes, given the political dynamics, including this year’s House of Delegates and Statewide elections. We, however, far exceeded my expectations.

HB 2313, which passed with strong bipartisan support, dramatically changes and increases our investment in transportation. Within a couple of years, we will have transportation funding increases of about $1.4 billion per year, including a large permanent increase dedicated to Northern Virginia.

If we haven’t “fixed” transportation, we certainly took a huge step in that direction with the first major long-term increase in transportation funding in 27 years, when a 1986 special session made a similar major investment.

In the days since the 2013 Legislative session closed, I have heard from some constituents expressing concern over one or more elements of the landmark transportation package that was approved last week. I understand, and in some cases agree with, criticism of individual components of the bill that we passed, but I am proud that substantial majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Senate put aside partisanship and objections to some parts of the bill to embrace a compromise that is good for Virginians, our businesses, and our economy.This is an enormous step forward for the Commonwealth and for Northern Virginia.

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