Your turn — Oh, Happy Day

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, June 23, 2022

It took longer than usual, but on Friday, June 17, the General Assembly passed the commonwealth’s biennial budget for 2022-24. Gov. Glenn Youngkin has indicated that he will sign HB 29 and HB 30 on Tuesday, June 21, in a public ceremony.

The final budget, while not perfect, makes significant strides in areas that Virginians told us they wanted to see improved.

Not only does the budget invest record funds in our K-12 schools, but it also opens the door for lab schools to be created all over the commonwealth.

These centers of educational innovation will help Virginia educators develop new and better ways to teach our children and give parents an additional choice in education.

We have also made historic investments in our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

PAIN AT THE PUMP TO CONTINUE

While the budget does provide more than $4 billion in tax relief, it does fall short in one major area: the price of fuel.

House Republicans voted to suspend the gas tax for three months to give drivers a small bit of help, but Senate Democrats wouldn’t budge.

In killing the governor’s gas tax amendment, Democrats also ensure that the gas tax itself will spike by 8% or more in July. Democrats understand higher prices are coming at the pump; they just do not care enough about you to want to help.

Gas prices could have been 26 cents lower, but Democrats have killed that idea for the third time now.

The message to voters is clear: Virginia Democrats had an opportunity to help Virginians, and they chose not to take it.

‘GOOD TIME’ CREDITS

The budget made permanent changes to the Code of Virginia that close a loophole that would have allowed some of the worst killers and rapists to get out of prison early and to the offense classifications that are eligible for the earned-sentence-credit structure.

Said simply, it keeps killers, rapists and abductors in jail and off the streets.

This changes who would be eligible for release and reduces the number of those receiving “good time credits” and walking out of jail on July 1.

In 2020, the General Assembly passed HB 5148, which changed the calculation of time served for inmates. Instead of having all inmates serve 85% of their sentence, some criminals would receive “good time credit” automatically and only need to serve approximately 60% of their sentence.

As the Department of Corrections began examining the data, thousands of criminals were going to be released between July 1 and Aug. 30. Some offenders were excluded from earning these credits based on their underlying offense. Many of those being released have been identified by DOC as being a high risk of violent recidivism.

This budget line item would remove an estimated 556 inmates from eligibility for release on July 1. Of these 556 who will not be released since the Budget Amendment passed, eight are capital murderers; 39 were convicted of first degree homicide; 61 were convicted of abduction; 41 convicted of rape/sexual assault; 259 convicted of robbery.

The expanded credits would still allow early release of more than 3,000 inmates from July to August.

Gov. Youngkin and Republicans are making Virginia respected again in America. Republicans, like myself, want Virginia to lead full steam ahead. The best way to lead is by sticking to our conservative principles and praying to our Lord and Savior for his guidance.

DEL. TOMMY WRIGHT can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.