Senator Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) spoke this afternoon to shed light on some major policy decisions regarding the state budget.  In the Senate budget, they included some economic development policy and Medicaid reform ideas that were not very popular with the Governor nor the House.  They have decided to remove these two provisions from the Senate budget and run them as separate bills.

He made it very clear that the Senate will be working with a budget that has a spending limit, one of $21.65 billion, which equates to a 2.75% increase from last year’s budget; the same rate as population growth and inflation.  He asked House members to also accept this spending limit, as their proposed budget was higher than this amount.  Senator Berger answered a reporter’s question stating, “We have attempted to reach an agreement with the House on a spending figure, and have been unable to at this time.”

Many questions were asked about the income and sales tax provisions that were included in the Senate budget and if those were going to be removed as well.  He said any taxes associated with the economic development plan would be removed, and the others would be discussed in the finance committees.

He hopes to get the final state budget approved and enacted into law before the continuing resolution expires, which is August 14th, 2015.  While the budget has a deadline for mid-August, we can expect the General Assembly to stay in session for a longer period.  Senator Berger made it very clear that the Senate will not adjourn till something is done about Medicaid reform.  He said they are close to getting something worked out with the House, but a final agreement has yet to be reached.

The cost per week to the taxpayer for members to be in session is $728 per member per week.  The longer these debates drag out, the more taxpayers will be spending.  On July 23rd, the state had already spent $3.2 million on lawmakers’ subsistence and travel.