Monday, February 18, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus Protests Voting Barriers


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                         Contact: Lisa Guthrie; (804) 240-1976

February 18, 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                                 




Richmond – Today, members of the Virginia General Assembly Progressive Caucus spoke out against bills which erect more roadblocks to exercise the right to vote.


Voting is a fundamental American freedom. Senator Obenshain's SB1256 will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to vote by mandating voters show a specific kind of ID at the polls, a kind of ID these politicians know many voters don't have.

SB1256 will disproportionately affect seniors, students, low-income, and minority voters.

Our elections should be free, fair, and accessible. We're all concerned about election integrity but the real threat is politicians who are trying to change the rules to rig the outcome.

Senator Donald McEachin expressed outrage stating, "Just six months ago, we spent $2 million to educate voters about changes to the voting laws. Now we want to change the laws again, and for what? To make it harder for more people to vote? These frequent rule changes don't make our elections safer. They confuse and discourage voters, who can longer have confidence that they have the right ID to be able to vote."

"Virginia has an ugly history of suppressing the vote and these bills will deny Virginians the right to vote.  Even if the ID from the registrar is free, there are hidden costs to the voter to get the documents necessary to prove their identity.  That is in essence a poll tax," stated Delegate Jennifer McClellan.

On another one of Senator Obenshain's bills, SB 1077, Delegate Bob Brink objected to yet more restrictions to voting.  "Using the SAVE database to verify the citizenship of registered voters wrongfully targets naturalized citizens whose SAVE records can be years out of date. Forcing individuals, who have properly navigated our complex immigration system and become US citizens, to prove their fundamental right to vote is outrageous."

We've never solved anything in this country with less democracy and we shouldn't start now.

Voting is the one thing that brings us all together and makes us equal as Americans.



Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus

Thursday, February 7, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus on Medicaid


For Immediate Release:                                       Contact:  Lisa Guthrie; (804) 240-1976

Thursday, February 7, 2013                     

Richmond – Virginia families deserve the same health security offered to every other state under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  But some in Richmond are going in the opposite direction by putting political interests  first.  The House of Delegates today rejected amendment language that would have accelerated Medicaid expansion and reform and instead adopted budget language that requires additional conditions and a delayed implementation that would prohibit expansion before July, 2015.  However, the Senate followed the solutions advanced by the Republican Senate Finance Chairman, Walter Stosch (SD 12) and adopted budget language that allows implementation flexibility as early as 2014.

Each day of delay means Virginia loses about $5 million of federal funding.  This funding is OUR federal tax dollars which would support health insurance and our hospitals, create 30,000 jobs, and boost Virginia's economy.

Medicaid expansion will save money, improve health, and even cut death rates right here in Virginia.  Expanding health coverage to more children and adults means saving money, saving lives, and a stronger and healthier Commonwealth.

Virginia Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Delegate Patrick Hope (HD 47) spoke out on the limitations in the budget.  "The House-passed budget is fundamentally flawed because it contains language to delay Medicaid expansion until July 2015. Denying over 300,000 poor families and children and costing Virginians over $3 billion is not only mean, it is fiscally irresponsible.

While the Virginia Progressive Caucus strongly supports reforming and expanding Virginia's Medicaid program, we can and should do these things simultaneously.  My budget amendment to the House budget on Medicaid expansion would have done just that. It makes no sense to reform the program with half of the poor in and the other half out."

Senator Donald McEachin (SD 9), a member of the Virginia Progressive Caucus, emphasized the $2 billion in economic benefits from Medicaid expansion and called for legislators to "put aside our narrow partisan differences in favor of the Commonwealth's interests.  We applaud Senate Finance Chairman Walter Stosch for his leadership in advancing an amendment today that seized an historic opportunity to expand health care coverage for thousands while also providing a competitive advantage for our businesses."

The Medicaid solution is paid for with federal tax dollars for the first three years, so if Virginia chooses not to fully implement the program, people in California and Massachusetts will be receiving the benefits that we paid for. After the first three years, the federal government will pay for up to 90% of the costs, with the state chipping in for the rest. Even after that, the cost of the program will be offset by the additional dollars that will be spent in the state in the health care industry.

The Virginia Progressive Caucus calls for budget conferees to enact a bipartisan budget that begins implementation of the expansion in 2014.                                                           










Friday, February 1, 2013

VA Progressive Caucus Concerns on Transportation Proposals

For Immediate Release                                                                                         Contact:  Lisa Guthrie; Executive Director

January 30, 2013                                                                                           (804) 240-1976;

Virginia Progressive Caucus Outlines Concerns on Transportation Funding Proposals

Today leaders in the legislative Virginia Progressive Caucus spoke out on transportation funding proposals on a number of concerns that stem from the source of the new revenue and the missing pieces on spending priorities. 

Caucus Co-chairman, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-HD 47), raised several points.  "While much has been said about the amount of revenue that HB 2213/SB 1355 would generate, there has been little attention paid to requiring better accountability on how the funds improve mobility.  New funding needs to be accompanied by fundamental reform of VDOT and its project planning processes in order to solve the Commonwealth's transportation crisis."

HB 2213/SB 1355 does advance several positive steps for transit and rail – most notably the establishment of a small dedicated, sustainable funding source for passenger rail that is required to sustain federal funding for intercity service.  However, since 2010, the General Assembly has accelerated appropriations of nearly $4 billion in funds – including $3 billion in bonded funds – to finance major transportation projects that often fail to address the core congestion problems of the state.  Northern Virginia alone needs at least $1 billion a year to address its dire transportation needs.

Most prominent among misdirected priorities is Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg which would cost over $1.1 billion in taxpayer funds plus tolls.  The current Route 460 carries just 11,000 trips per day.  "The new US 460 Bypass is estimated to support  5500 trips per day.  "Traffic studies for a new Costco on Rt. 1 in Fairfax County show that the store would create as many trips as this 1.5 billion dollar road" said Delegate Scott Surovell.  Without assurances that substantial funding will go to local transportation projects, our communities' needs will go unmet.

Despite the major injection in revenue, little progress has been made to resolve long-term problems.  The General Assembly should review the return on investments in transportation to date.  Improved project selection, with greater transparency and General Assembly oversight, will avoid funds being wasted on projects that do little to alleviate congestion in Virginia's most troubled transportation districts.

Caucus member Delegate Scott Surovell (D-HD 44), cautions that HB 2313's grab of existing General Fund resources could underfund current General Fund programs by $49 million in FY 2014 and as much as $283 million in FY 2018.  A better alternative, in addition to adjusting or indexing the gas tax to inflation, would include the elimination of reliance on funding from General Fund programs.  Delegate Surovell states, "Eliminating the statewide tax on gasoline is bad economics and bad transportation policy.  It cuts the sensible tie between transportation use and funding, forcing Virginians who drive less to subsidize those who drive more, hurting seniors and low-income individuals, carpoolers, transit users, and those who live closer to their jobs."

                Senator Adam Ebbin, Caucus co-chair, adds, "We should retain and even increase the gas tax so we can share the costs of transportation improvements with vehicles passing through Virginia from out of state.  To force Virginians, even those who don't drive, to cover the costs alone is shortsighted.  There is evidence from other states that taxpayers will likely only see a partial reduction in gas prices." Estimates show that 30% of cars on interstates are from out of state and traveling through Virginia on our highways.

"The Governor's plan only funds about 10-15% of our present long-term transportation funding shortfall," said Delegate Scott Surovell.

The Virginia Progressive Caucus emphasizes that reforms and revenue are both needed to address Virginia's serious transportation crisis.



Lisa M. Guthrie, Executive Director, Virginia Progressive Caucus, 804-240-1976, Twitter: @VaProgCaucus Facebook: Virginia-Progressive-Caucus