Battles loom as lawmakers prepare for General Assembly session

Published: Jan. 3, 2019 at 7:03 PM EST
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They came from Big Stone Gap to Nelson County, and many places in between, to make their pitch for more state funding.

Members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees met at Virginia Western Community College on Thursday morning for one of four public hearings across the state.

For union member Janet Boston, the goal was better pay and benefits for home health care providers.

"We are saving the government so much money," Boston told WDBJ7, and we are treated with the lowest toll."

But as lawmakers heard calls for more school counselors, higher teacher salaries and better services for at-risk children, they were also tempering expectations.

"We're blessed right now. The economy has been strong. Unemployment is low. Resources are coming in strong for the Commonwealth," Delegate Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg) said in an interview, "but we certainly don't have unlimited resources."

Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) would like to see more oversight of public utilities.

"The reality is our utility bills are just too high,"Rasoul said in an interview earlier this week. "That's unfortunately because we haven't done our best to protect ratepayers."

Senator Bill Carrico (R-Grayson Co.) says Interstate 81 is a priority.

"I think that's going to be a big issue before the Transportation Committee," he told us.

And Delegate Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave) is looking for tax reform.

"The Governor is assuming the revenues are going to come in," Landes said after the hearing, "but the General Assembly has not adopted those policies."

What GOP lawmakers have in mind could come into focus on Friday.

Republicans in the House of Delegates have scheduled a teleconference, in which they are promising a plan they say will offer broad tax relief to Virginia taxpayers.