Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A lot going on in Virginia - Report from Delegate Mark Keam

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Dear Friends,

I wanted to let you of a couple of important developments in the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia that you may be following.

Budget “Surplus” News


We received some new information on the state of our economy and the budget. As a member of the House Finance Committee the House Finance Committee, I went to Richmond last Thursday to meet with Governor Bob McDonnell and the Secretary of Finance, Richard Brown, as they presented their first budget report. The Governor announced that the state finished Fiscal Year 2010 with a surplus of approximately $403 million. The funds comprised of $229 million in additional revenue from general collections, plus $174 million in appropriations that state agencies did not spend.

Most of this “surplus” is subject to re-appropriation based on language that the General Assembly passed earlier this year . The spending will be based on the Governor’s discretion, and he has until November 1 to report to the General Assembly on his decision regarding how much, if any, of the unspent agency balances he will recommend re-appropriating to agencies. Any amounts not re-appropriated will become part of the general fund and made available for reallocation during the upcoming budget development process.

Since Governor McDonnell made this announcement, some have praised him for managing the state in a fiscally responsible manner and others have criticized him for using “gimmicks” and accounting tricks to show a surplus on paper. My response is one of cautious optimism. The fact that we ended this year on a positive side of the ledger is good news no matter how we arrived at the number. I will be writing more on this topic on my website in the coming days as I learn more specific details from the budget report.

Governor's Town Hall Tomorrow

By now, you’ve all heard about Governor McDonnell’s campaign pledge to take the Commonwealth out of the liquor business. Early this year, the Governor established a Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring to propose ideas “to ensure that duplicative, outdated, unnecessary and ineffective services and service delivery methods are eliminated and that state revenues are dedicated to the core functions of government.”

One of the main ideas this Commission is studying is the possibility of privatizing state-run Alcoholic Beverage Control Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores. Since I don’t serve on this Commission, I have been following their progress online and through various conversations. And while I have my views on the ABC system, I’m going to keep an open mind about this idea until a firm proposal is presented by the Commission.

To help you better understand this issue as well as learn about any other initiative that the current Administration is undertaking, Governor McDonnell has scheduled a public town hall meeting this Wednesday, August 25, in Fairfax County. The Town Hall will begin at 7:00 pm at the Northern Virginia Technology Council, located at 2214 Rock Hill Road, Suite 300, Herndon, VA 20170 .

The town hall will last approximately an hour and a half and will include an update from the Governor on policy issues and time for public comment. I hope you can attend!


Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative


Another one of Governor McDonnell’s high profile initiative is to reform the way our state treats ex-felons who return to society after serving their time. In a prior professional role, I worked on prison reentry issues, which led me to introduce a bill in this year’s General Assembly session that would seek federal assistance for the Commonwealth to improve our system.

That is why I was very excited that, in May, Governor McDonnell established a “Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative,” and appointed me to serve on the Leadership Team for this statewide Initiative. Our Team is meeting this Thursday in Richmond, so I look forward to providing you with a report on our progress.

Expect Delays on I-66 This Weekend

Virginia Department of Transportation Virginia Department of Transportation tells us that beginning at 7 pm this Friday, August 27, until 5 am Monday, August 30 , two of three lanes on eastbound I-66 between Nutley St. and I-495 will be closed as crews prepare to shift traffic to the new I-66 bridges over the beltway. In addition to the lane closures on I-66 East, several nearby ramps will also be closed.

Motorists should expect overnight temporary stoppages after midnight lasting no longer than 30 minutes throughout the weekend. By 5 am Monday morning, the three I-66 East lanes will be shifted to the new bridges over I-495. HOV motorists traveling in the left lane on I-66 East heading to Washington DC will need to merge to the right lane prior to I-495 north to continue into downtown.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you enjoy the last days of summer!

Sincerely,



Mark



* Mark Keam is VA State Delegate from District 35. He is the first Asian American Immigrant who was elected to the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia.


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