Message from Glen
A day late, but the regular session of the 2019 General Assembly adjourned Sine Die this afternoon. We’ve had a remarkably busy session and we’ve made substantial legislative accomplishments. There is still important work to be done, and I’m committed to continuing to fight for meaningful education reforms, affordable and accessible college programs for our students, and reduced tax burdens for Virginia families that help our economy grow.
Amendments to the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget were approved in both chambers today, with negotiators on behalf of the Senate and House of Delegates reaching an agreement on Saturday morning and with all members having 24 hours to deliberate over the contents. The final budget was remarkably close to what the Senate approved previously, which I’ve highlighted in earlier newsletters.
Importantly - our budget this year funds our top priorities while providing real tax relief to hardworking Virginians. Within this framework, we are providing significant funding for education, including the state’s share of a 5% raise for public school teachers, which will help our communities attract and retain the best teachers.
While I advocated for a more comprehensive and substantial increase in funding for school construction, this budget will provide millions to localities to help build and repair school infrastructure. We also added funds to enhance school safety and increased the availability of certified and credentialed Opportunity Grants at our community colleges.
For most Virginians, the most noticeable result of this year’s General Assembly session will arrive in the fall, when taxpayers receive their tax rebate checks ($110 per individual or $220 for couples). For future years, taxpayers will benefit from a significant tax cut from the first meaningful increase in the standard deduction in 30 years.
This General Assembly Session was very different than the others I’ve experienced during my freshman term. The national scrutiny, the influx of media and news crews on Capitol Square, and the general chaos experienced because of new information about the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General resulted in some truly bizarre moments.
Thankfully, the real story for legislators this year was the commitment to working on behalf of our constituents to make positive improvements to the challenges facing everyday Virginia families.
I’d like to give a special and sincere thanks to our 2019 interns, Paige and James, who were immensely helpful in ensuring that our office ran smoothly this Session. The extra hands during the busiest of days was especially appreciated.
We’ll be returning to the Capitol on April 3 to consider the Governor’s actions on the legislation we’ve approved. Until then, I am excited to get back to the regular schedule of a citizen legislator, husband, and father. It is an honor to represent the 10th district and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work on your behalf.
Sturtevant: Funding and freezing college tuition in 2019
The already high cost of a college degree is rising at unsustainable rates in the Commonwealth. Virginia is now ranked 6th highest in the nation for tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities. Costs have risen more than 75 percent in just 10 years alone. Without real, meaningful action by the General Assembly and our public colleges and universities, even more students will find themselves priced out of higher education all together.
As more and more of Virginia’s students are having to take on enormous debt to finance a college degree, they and their families are nervous about their financial futures, and rightfully so. Virginia families spend, on average, 32 percent of household income to pay for college. As the father of three young children, all of whom will be in college at the same time, this is a concern I understand firsthand. While my wife and I are working to pay off our own student loans, we are simultaneously saving for our kids’ tuitions.
Every year I have introduced legislation to make college, and continuing education, more affordable and accessible for our current and future students. Providing top-notch education isn’t free — but there must be a balance to ensure that colleges and universities are still accessible for Virginia families. Limiting tuition increases is just part of that puzzle — but it is a very meaningful step for students struggling to afford their education.
As we move forward deliberating over the state budget, my colleagues in the House of Delegates have proposed significant funding for Virginia’s public colleges and universities — which they will receive if they freeze tuition. This is not a mandate for our schools. It is a reasonable common sense approach.
Ensuring that quality, affordable higher education is in reach for all Virginians is a shared responsibility that must be taken seriously by state lawmakers and our public colleges and universities alike. By funding and freezing college tuition, the General Assembly can fulfill our side of the bargain by providing our public institutions with needed revenue without hamstringing our kids’ financial futures.
Offering relief for students and their families from another year of tuition increases while our public colleges get what they need means that everybody wins.
The skyrocketing costs of higher education and the subsequent student debt can severely hinder a student’s future success. Many young adults, faced with making significant payments of student loans into their 30s, are delaying life milestones far longer than those who came before them. That includes home ownership, marriage, and parenthood. It also makes it harder for entrepreneurs pull together resources and start a business.
The average student loan debt for a Virginia graduate in 2017, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, was almost $30,000. And more than 55% of graduates were facing some amount of student loan debt.
Meanwhile, parents and even grandparents are finding themselves reaching further and further into their own pockets to help put their students through college. Parent PLUS loans disbursements have increased over 600 percent in 10 years as Virginia parents struggle to cover the leftover college costs after applying student loans and other financial aid. The number of Virginians over the age of 60 who have student loan debt is now double what it was five years ago.
Without action — this problem is only going to get worse. The House of Delegates has proposed a reasonable way forward that can begin to offer hope and economic relief for those seeking brighter futures. I hope my Senate colleagues join me in giving it the consideration and support that it deserves.
We still have a lot of progress to make, but for the sake of the students and families we represent, our neighbors and our friends, I’m hopeful that this will be a turning point towards a better future.
What’s Happening at the Capitol
Medical students came to Richmond to advocate on behalf of my bill to protect patients and prohibit balanced billing. Their testimony was powerful support for ensuring patients have the best care and aren’t stuck with a bill. Though our bill wasn’t heard in the House of Delegates after earning unanimous support in the Senate, I’m thankful for their help in bringing awareness and thoughtful solutions to the table this year.
Seniors from James River High School joined us at the Capitol to chat with their representatives and learn more about the legislative process.
Jaiden and Jeremiah visited our office from Franklin Military Academy to witness government in action.
It was great to see Dr. Angel Cabrera from George Mason, my alma mater, to discuss college affordability and ensuring funding for Virginia’s public colleges and universities.
Constituents from the League of Conservation Voters stopped by to advocate on behalf of clean energy and other environmental preservation goals.
Students from the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics met with us to discuss the importance of healthy lifestyles and access to nutritious foods from a young age.
I enjoyed meeting with Richmond area doctors from the Medical Society of Virginia who were participating in their “White Coats on Call” advocacy day.