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State revenues surge in January, but not in time to aid budget

State revenues surge in January, but not in time to aid budget

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in News | 0 comments

IMAGE: BOB BROWN/TIMES-DISPATCH

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday that revenues rose 7.4 percent in January over the previous January, while collections for the first seven months of the fiscal year are up 4.6 percent and ahead of the annual forecast revised in the face of last year’s shortfall.

Even McAuliffe, in his last, cash-strapped year as governor, cautioned against assuming that winter had ended for state revenue collections.

“Even though there is still plenty of time left on the fiscal year clock, the good news is that we are above the forecast at this point,” he said in the revenue announcement Monday. “We continue to be cautiously optimistic about revenue collections.”

The optimism springs not only from total collections through January, which are ahead of the annual forecast by 1.7 percentage points. More important is the source of the increased revenue — primarily income taxes withheld from paychecks, which accounts for about two-thirds of state general funds.

Withheld income taxes grew 8 percent in January, which included an extra payroll collection day from the same month a year ago. But for the fiscal year that began on July 1, this critical source of revenue grew by 5 percent, above the twice-revised annual estimate of 3.6 percent.

The first revision, which the governor made in August, lowered the annual forecast for withholding income taxes from 5.8 to 3 percent. The second, when he presented his budget in December after consulting with his economic and revenue councils, raised the projected growth to 3.6 percent.

“That’s some cause for optimism,” Secretary of Finance Richard “Ric” D. Brown said Monday.

Last year, state and legislative budget officials were caught off guard when payroll withholding grew more slowly than expected, primarily because lower-paying jobs replaced high-wage jobs that were lost in Northern Virginia and other parts of the state especially vulnerable to cuts in federal spending through budget sequestration.

Another potential round of sequestration in September tempers optimism . “It’s good news, but it’s kind of ‘been there, done that,’” House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said in response to the January revenue collections.

Senate Finance Co-Chairman Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, called the January revenue collections “very encouraging,” but he, too, said the legislature won’t use the improved outlook as reason for raising revenue estimates and generating more money for the budget.

“We just don’t want to do that,” Hanger said.

Three years ago, the governor and Republican legislative leaders broke a bruising budget standoff over Medicaid expansion after learning in late May that non-withholding income taxes — primarily estimated payments for investment gains — were far behind the forecast.

The subsequent revenue shortfall was projected at $2.4 billion over the biennium, but tax collections recovered the next year to produce a record surplus in 2015. The boom went bust again at the end of last year, resulting in a revenue shortfall estimated at $1.5 billion in August and then lowered to $1.26 billion when McAuliffe presented his revised budget in December.

Assembly leaders have made clear they don’t intend to revise the current revenue forecast to allow for increased spending in the budget the assembly is scheduled to adopt before the end of this month. “We’re not looking to re-forecast,” Jones said. “This puts us in good position for the next biennial budget.”

Among other good news in January revenue collections was the increase in corporate taxes — up 20.7 percent for the month and 10.9 percent for the year, ahead of projected growth of 3.8 percent.

mmartz@timesdispatch.com

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Virginia legislature moves forward with budgets, haggles over state pay raises

Virginia legislature moves forward with budgets, haggles over state pay raises

Posted by on Feb 13, 2017 in News | 0 comments

IMAGE: (Bob Brown/RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS)
February 9
Thursday was pecking day at the General Assembly, as the Senate and House each passed a version of the budget and withstood last attempts by members to peck away at the fringes of the spending plans.

Neither chamber’s budget is drastically different from what Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) proposed in December, and none of the down-to-the-wire changes made much impact on the bottom line.

The legislature is fashioning the second year of a two-year, $105 billion spending plan adopted in 2016. Unexpected drops in revenue last year led to a shortfall of about $1.2 billion, so the haggling here is over how to patch that without causing too much pain.

The biggest difference among the three versions of the budget is over raises for state employees. McAuliffe proposed a one-time bonus of 1.5 percent, costing about $111.5 million. Both House and Senate leaders dislike that idea and prefer to raise salaries.

The House and Senate budgets would pay for a 3 percent raise for state employees and would single out state police, Capitol police and sheriff’s deputies for targeted increases to make their pay more competitive.

Instead of funding a raise for teachers, the House would return about $62 million in state lottery money to local school boards and let them decide whether to use it for salaries or pension contributions. The Senate budget sets aside $83.2 million for the state contribution to a 2 percent pay raise for K-12 teachers.

Otherwise, the budget plans are more harmonious than usual, possibly because this is an election year for the governor and the House and there is little incentive to shake things up.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few flare-ups of partisan posturing on Thursday.

On the House side, Democrats made futile efforts to restore favorite items (such as overtime for home health-care workers, funding for long-term contraceptives for low-income women and money to replace lead water pipes), while Republicans had more success with some that did not carry price tags.

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) stirred a debate with an amendment to stipulate that no state money would be spent on abortion services unless required by federal law. When Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) questioned whether it would prevent abortions when a fetus is too deformed to survive outside the womb, Marshall called the idea “eugenics” and said angrily that all babies “are still made in the image and likeness of God.”

The amendment passed on a straight party line vote, 60 to 34.

Republican delegates also took a shot at the Senate, declining to take up a budget amendment that would have equalized the pay between House Clerk G. Paul Nardo and Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar. Nardo makes about $194,000 after five and a half years on the job, while Schaar makes about $175,000 after 27 years.

But Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, pointed out that Nardo’s job has extra duties of “enrolling” or processing all bills passed by both chambers and that he will have to coordinate next year’s gubernatorial inauguration.

“So their jobs are not equal,” Jones said. The House set the amendment aside on a voice vote.

In the Senate, the practice of relying on unrecorded voice votes led to at least one minor dust-up. Democrats tried to restore an item in McAuliffe’s budget that would give the governor the ability to expand Medicaid in Virginia if the Affordable Care Act is still in existence after one year.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who presides over the Senate, ruled that he couldn’t tell whether the voice vote was in favor of or against the idea, so he called for a recorded vote.

This provoked complaints from Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), who pressed Northam on just how he makes such a decision when one side is plainly louder than the other.

“I know you are a pediatric neurologist,” Norment said to Northam, “but I have a good friend who is an audiologist.”

The attempt to restore the governor’s language failed on a party-line vote, 21 to 19.

Each budget now goes to the opposite chamber, and they will appoint conferees to hammer out a final version that requires the approval of the House and the Senate before it can be sent to the governor. Both Republican and Democratic leaders praised one another for working conscientiously.

“While we would not have written this budget precisely this way,” House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said, “it’s our view that we are moving in the right direction.”

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Election system priority for Senate Republicans in fall, but not in budget

Election system priority for Senate Republicans in fall, but not in budget

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in News | 0 comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2017 10:45 pm

Problems with Virginia’s voter registration system prompted howls of outrage from Republican legislators last fall, but almost $4 million proposed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to address their concerns disappeared from the budget adopted by the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee last weekend.

The $3.9 million proposed by McAuliffe to upgrade the VERIS registration system and replace dwindling federal funding of Virginia’s election system was cut from the budget by a Finance subcommittee led by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Vogel said the decision was driven by the overriding budget priority to restore raises for state employees, and promised to revisit the issue of elections funding in the impending budget conference committee with the House of Delegates, which left the money alone.

“It’s a big concern for everyone,” she said Wednesday.

As the Senate and House prepare to adopt their versions of the budget today, Vogel acknowledged the issue is especially important for her. As chairwoman of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, she called a joint committee meeting with the House in October to voice concerns shared by general registrars about the reliability of the VERIS system.

The online voter registration system crashed during a surge of activity ahead of the pre-election deadline, prompting a federal judge to order Virginia to briefly reopen the registration period.

Chesterfield County Registrar Lawrence C. Haake said he was bemused by the Senate’s action, which stripped $1 million to enhance the VERIS system, $2 million to pay for election programs now financed through a 15-year-old federal election law, and more than $800,000 in one-time funding initiatives proposed by the governor.

“I’m not sure the General Assembly understands the importance of what they’re doing,” said Haake, who will retire April 1 after more than 20 years as Chesterfield registrar. “The General Assembly is not supporting elections in the commonwealth by taking that money.”

House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said, “There’s nothing more essential than the conduct of our elections. It’s our responsibility. It’s a fundamental function of government.”

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor had heard the concerns voiced by Republicans last fall and addressed them in his budget. “He hopes they will see the wisdom of giving the Department of Elections the resources it needs to run smooth elections,” he said.

Jeff Ryer, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said the omission reflects the way Senate Finance tasks its subcommittees with meeting a funding target, in this case with the overriding priority of employee compensation. “Considering the assignment that Jill’s (subcommittee) had, they had to prioritize,” he said. “You can see how they prioritized.”

However, the Senate budget includes a $14.5 million unappropriated balance, as well as a $40 million reserve fund it created with additional revenue expected from a tax amnesty program proposed by McAuliffe and supported by legislators. The House budget has a $1.9 million unappropriated balance and does not include additional revenue from the amnesty.

“It’s better not to count our eggs before the chickens lay them,” Appropriations Director Robert P. Vaughn said in a House budget briefing Tuesday.

Funding to bolster Virginia’s election system is just one of the conflicts between the House and Senate versions of the two-year state budget, which both would restore a 3 percent raise for state employees and bolster pay for state troopers, while rejecting the one-time, 1.5 percent bonus proposed by the governor in December.

The Senate budget also doesn’t include funding for the Division of Capitol Police to make its salaries more competitive and prepare for the General Assembly’s move this summer to temporary quarters while the General Assembly Building is demolished and replaced. The House budget includes $2.4 million for the Capitol Police to raise salaries, fill vacancies and add positions.

Vogel’s subcommittee also recommended cutting more than $2.2 million from the budget for the transition and inauguration of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general during the fiscal year that will begin July 1. The House budget keeps the money intact.

But the biggest point of conflict is how the two budgets treat teacher raises. The Senate plan would provide $83 million for the state’s share of a 2 percent raise for teachers to make up for the state’s reneging on its commitment to a raise in December because of a revenue shortfall projected at $1.26 billion for the two-year budget.

Most school divisions gave the raises to teachers anyway, but the House budget does not include money explicitly to pay the state’s share of a pay hike. Instead, the House added $61 million, primarily from funds McAuliffe proposed to use for a bonus, to free Virginia Lottery proceeds for school divisions to use as they like, without having to match the grants with local money.

The proposal would boost the lottery money available in the next fiscal year to more than $218 million for school divisions to use for teacher pay or to pay the full contribution required by the Virginia Retirement System for teacher pensions, House budget officials say. In contrast, the Senate plan would combine almost $28 million in lottery money for K-12 in the current budget with the $55 million proposed by the governor for a bonus to provide the state’s share of a teacher raise.

Virginia Education Association President Jim Livingston said teachers generally favor the Senate plan because it would direct the money to be used for raises, although they are dismayed that the proposal would allow school divisions to use the money to “backfill” the state’s share of raises given last year, rather than give additional raises to help close a $7,200 gap in state teacher pay with the national average.

“In itself, it’s not doing anything to address the shortage in teacher pay,” Livingston said.

House budget leaders say their proposal was well-received by school superintendents in a conference call last week, but the Virginia Association of School Superintendents hasn’t taken a position on which budget to support, lobbyist Tom Smith said. “We are in favor of increasing teacher salaries. We are looking at how that might be done with both budgets.”

Ryer, the Senate Republicans’ spokesman, said the differences between the House and Senate will be relatively easy to bridge in conference committee.

“Are there differences? Yes,” he said. “Are there huge distances? No.”

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Va. House, Senate budgets would boost pay for public employees

Va. House, Senate budgets would boost pay for public employees

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in News | 0 comments

IMAGE: BOB BROWN / RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH

Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2017 5:00 am

More pay for public employees is the bottom line in the budget proposals that will emerge in the General Assembly today.

In addition to restoring a canceled 3 percent pay increase for state employees and giving an additional boost to state police salaries, the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee will propose a 2 percent raise for sheriff’s deputies and other state-supported local employees.

The House proposal also will include $2.4 million for the Capitol Police to raise officer pay, fill vacant positions and hire 15 additional officers to address turnover and staff shortages in the force that polices the Virginia Capitol and seat of government around it.

The plan would raise the starting salary for Capitol Police by $6,200 — to $42,750 a year — while providing existing staff an increase of $4,300 on top of the 3 percent raise for all state employees.

“Capitol Police provide more than just our security when we’re here,” Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said in an embargoed budget briefing for the media on Friday.

Senate Finance did not share its budget proposals with the media in advance, but Co-Chairman Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, said the plan’s priorities are restoring the pay increase for state employees, boosting state police compensation, and improving the state’s dysfunctional behavioral health system

“I expect our budget to end up in a more conservative posture than the House,” Hanger said Saturday.

The House budget includes $2.8 million for targeted raises to employees in high-turnover positions, such as nurses and direct-care aides at state behavioral health facilities, and housing staff and food-service workers at higher education institutions. They would get a 2 percent boost on top of the pay hike for all state employees.

The plan would provide money for raises to employees of public colleges and universities who didn’t get them last year because of a surprise shortfall in state revenues. Some institutions, notably the University of Virginia and College of William & Mary, gave raises to faculty anyway.

It also would restore $21 million of the $76 million that Gov. Terry McAuliffe cut in state support for higher education institutions in the budget he proposed last month, reducing the spending cut to no more than 1.4 percent of any institution’s total education and general funds.

The House budget proposal does not include money explicitly for teacher pay increases, but Hanger said of the Senate plan, “We’re going to attempt to work something out for the teachers.”

Both committees plan to free Lottery proceeds for local school divisions to use as they wish, and to provide extra relief for small school divisions with sharp declines in enrollment and state funding.

House budget leaders briefed school superintendents on the K-12 spending plan in a conference call Wednesday, Jones said. “They were very pleased with the news we gave them.”

Richmond and other cities with high poverty rates would have an opportunity for grants from a $10 million fund that would be established under the House budget for community wealth building programs that provide services to move people out of poverty and off public assistance by helping them get jobs.

“It’s a comprehensive approach to move people from dependence to self-reliance,” said Del. Christopher K. Peace, R-Hanover, a member of Appropriations who pushed for funding of the program. “It’s one of those areas there is common ground on both sides of the aisle.”

Both committee budget proposals include big increases in funding for mental health and substance disorder treatment, building on the $31.7 million McAuliffe proposed in December for the state’s behavioral health system.

The committees did not include $4.5 million the governor had proposed for a study of how to restructure the mental health system.

The House instead boosted eligibility for mental health services under Medicaid to people earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or $11,880 for a single person, expanding eligibility to the Guaranteed Access Program by about 3,000 people.

The budget proposals also include money to provide permanent supportive housing for people with behavioral health disorders, with $5 million in the Senate proposal and $2 million in House plan.

“With our focus on mental health, we felt that was an omission by the governor that we intend to address,” Hanger said.

The House budget would provide $1.5 million to expand the state’s program for victims of domestic violence and restore about $723,000 cut from the Library of Virginia, which lost up to 15 positions because of spending cuts in the current year’s budget to close an immediate revenue shortfall.

The restored money will allow the library to reopen on Mondays and Saturdays, said Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, who introduced budget amendments to restore the funding.

In economic development, the House plan would restore $7.5 million to the GO Virginia initiative, or about half of the $15 million that McAuliffe cut in his proposed budget. It also would restore half of the $4 million the governor cut from incentives for the Inova Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute in Fairfax County.

The House did not restore any of the $10 million that McAuliffe cut from the Virginia Research Investment Fund. Jones sponsored the higher-education research initiative, but he said, “We didn’t feel like they were ready.”

Jones did not say how much the House budget may provide to support restructuring of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership through legislation he is sponsoring. The restructuring plan is likely to require the creation of a division to oversee financial incentives given to new or expanding businesses, and an internal auditor.

“If we get a bill, there will be funding at the end of the day,” Jones said.

The House committee aimed its spending plan for higher education at colleges and universities that didn’t give faculty and other employees a 3 percent raise last year. The revenue shortfall had triggered a budget provision that canceled the $346.3 million compensation package that was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 for a wide range of public employees.

The House includes $6 million in raises for classified workers at colleges and universities, $8.7 million for faculty, and $2.9 million for administrative faculty, but only for institutions that didn’t give raises on their own last year, such as Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University, and Christopher Newport University.

Institutions that did give raises to faculty and university staff — especially the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary — could increase salaries again, but only at their own expense.

“If they were able to give pay raises without state help, they will be able to continue to do it without state help,” Appropriations Director Robert P. Vaughn said.

The House found money to pay for its priorities, especially raises, primarily from the $130.6 million that McAuliffe had proposed for one-time, 1.5 percent bonuses and new spending initiatives outside of mental health. “We took the new initiatives and pretty much wiped them out,” Jones said.

Among the cuts in the House plan was $3.9 million to pay for career development programs, sheriffs, commonwealth’s attorneys, and other constitutional officers sought for their staffs. Hanger said the Senate proposal would include money for career development.

The House budget proposal relies on additional revenue from tax policy changes McAuliffe proposed, but would eliminate new and increased fees in the governor’s plan.

It also, once again, would reject McAuliffe’s attempt to retain the power to expand Medicaid if the Affordable Care Act survives attempts by President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal the law.

“I think I said, ‘Nice try,’ ” Jones quipped.

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Va. House proposal sets up battle with governor over economic development program

Va. House proposal sets up battle with governor over economic development program

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in News | 0 comments

IMAGE: BOB BROWN / Richmond Times Dispatch

Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2017 12:00 am

Legislation to restructure Virginia’s principal economic development program has cleared its first hurdle, but appears headed for a showdown with Gov. Terry McAuliffe over which branch of government would control it.

A House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday swiftly killed a proposal that the governor favored and adopted legislation sponsored by Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, that would give the legislature the upper hand in appointing the board of directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

House Bill 2471, adopted on a unanimous vote by the subcommittee, also would give a current legislative oversight committee the power to rule on high-dollar financial incentive packages proposed for economic development projects before they could be approved by the governor.

Jones said the bill would prevent the state from rushing into economic development deals before fully vetting them, as the McAuliffe administration did with a $1.4 million grant to a Chinese company — that proved to be illegitimate — to build a factory in Appomattox County that never was begun.

“If we had the fixes here in place, that would not have occurred,” he said.

The subcommittee vote marked the beginning of the legislative battle over how to restructure the partnership. A report by the General Assembly’s watchdog agency last fall said the program was poorly managed and supervised, and lacked policies and procedures essential to prevent taxpayer money from being wasted.

The Senate will have its say on Monday, when a committee considers legislation, including a bill proposed by its chairman, Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr., R-Mecklenburg, to restructure VEDP, as the partnership is known.

McAuliffe and legislative leaders agree that the partnership needs to be restructured to require stronger supervision by its board of directors and to include safeguards in the way financial incentives are awarded to businesses that move to Virginia, as well as assurances that they live up to their promises for investment and new jobs.

But the governor and legislators are far apart on which branch of government should control VEDP. The state created the partnership in 1995 under Gov. George Allen as an independent authority within the Commerce and Trade secretariat.

Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, introduced legislation — which the subcommittee quickly killed on Wednesday — that would have given the governor clear authority over the partnership and its board.

“I’ve always thought that whoever is over VEDP ought to report directly to the governor,” Kilgore said. “The governor is responsible for job creation.”

Hayes Framme, deputy secretary of Commerce and Trade, told the subcommittee, “There is a need for more accountability to the executive branch by VEDP.”

Jones’ bill would reduce the board from 24 to 11 members, with four appointed by the governor in addition to the secretary of commerce and trade.

The legislature also would appoint four members, but the board would include the directors of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees.

Currently, the executive branch controls 18 seats on the board with 12 outside appointees and five members of the executive branch, as well as the chancellor of the community college system.

“The accountability should have always been there,” Jones said. “But the communication didn’t work as well as it should have.”

Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd A. Haymore said in an interview that the law currently does not provide the governor’s office daily oversight of the partnership’s work. “The ability to hold the board accountable to the executive branch is something the governor feels strongly about,” he said.

Haymore did not say whether the administration would raise constitutional concerns over the proposed legislation, as it did over the bill the General Assembly adopted last year to create the Growth and Opportunity Act, or GO Virginia.

“We believe VEDP bears the hallmarks of being an executive branch agency, and we will look at any legislation through that lens,” he said.

Jones said in an interview that he considers VEDP to be a separate political subdivision. “It’s an independent authority, with clearly prescribed powers and duties,” he said.

He also said the legislation would prevent the governor from approving financial incentives for economic development projects until the MEI Commission, a legislative panel that reviews projects involving more than $10 million in incentives, has endorsed them.

“It’s not a straitjacket,” Jones said in an interview, “but it certainly requires due diligence, as one would hope and expect when you’re talking about the taxpayers’ money.”

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Subcommittee endorses new retirement option for Va. public employees

Subcommittee endorses new retirement option for Va. public employees

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in News | 0 comments

IMAGE: JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:30 pm

State and local government employees would get another, voluntary option for retirement savings under legislation championed by House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and endorsed by a House subcommittee Thursday.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on compensation and retirement voted unanimously to support House Bill 2251 to create a voluntary, 401(k)-style retirement savings plan for state and local government employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2020, as well as current employees who want the option.

Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, Appropriations chairman, proposed the legislation on behalf of Howell, who leads a commission on retirement security and pension reform that endorsed the idea last year as a way to give employees a way to carry their retirement savings with them if they change jobs.

Unlike the hybrid retirement plan put into place for all new state and local government employees in 2014, the proposed retirement savings plan would be voluntary for newly hired employees, as well as existing employees who would have the choice in 2019 of switching from their current pension or hybrid plans.

“It’s another good tool for the state to have in its recruitment tool belt,” said R. Ronald Jordan, executive director of the Virginia Governmental Employees Association and a member of the speaker’s commission.

Jordan and a representative for state police based their support on the plan’s voluntary nature. “As long as it’s optional, it’s a great idea,” said M. Wayne Huggins, executive director of the Virginia State Police Association.

The Virginia Education Association opposed the bill because the VEA favors traditional pension benefits for teachers in the Virginia Retirement System, but spokesman Jay Deck told the subcommittee, “We do appreciate that it is voluntary.”

The proposed defined contribution plan is one of the options endorsed by Howell’s commission — and the approach personally favored by the speaker — as a way to improve portability of retirement benefits and reduce long-term unfunded pension liabilities for the state and local governments.

It is expected to pass the House because of the speaker’s support but its fate would be less certain in the Senate.

The commission endorsed changes to the current hybrid plan so that more of the mandatory 5 percent of pay that employees contribute would go to their portable savings plans rather than traditional pension benefits.

However, legislation introduced this year to revise the hybrid plan isn’t going anywhere in this assembly session because it would cost the state $16.6 million in general funds — and $48.2 million in all funds — in the fiscal year that will begin on July 1.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” said Jones, who sponsored a similar proposal last year, in an interview on Thursday.

Instead, legislators are devoting available funds to raises for state employees — particularly state police — which was the Howell commission’s top priority because of concern over workforce turnover and wages that lag the private market.

“It would have been nice to do,” Jones said of the hybrid proposal, sponsored this year by Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico. “But with regard to state employees, compensation had to be the first dollar we spend this year.”

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