Virginia remains unsure of how to redefine “part-time” employment as it pertains to public employees and their right to health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
The General Assembly affirmed Gov. Bob McDonnell’s decision to order state agencies to cut back part-time employee hours to no more than 29 hours per week. The cuts are intended to avoid triggering a requirement under the federal law to provide health insurance.
Under PPACA, employees who work an average of 30 or more hours per week are considered full-time employees and are eligible for health insurance coverage. The state is debating how the requirement affects certain employees, notably adjunct professors at community colleges, and how to make up the reduced hours without affecting services. Local governments are facing the same issues.
State officials estimate that providing part-time, hourly employees who work at least 30 hours per week would cost between $61 million and $110 million if their families are covered.
McDonnell Prepared to Cut a Deal on Transportation
Speaking in Northern Virginia about his transportation funding plan, McDonnell signaled Monday that he was willing to make a deal. However, lawmakers and experts say the least likely element of the plan to survive the General Assembly is the proposal to eliminate the gas tax in exchange for an increase in the state sales tax.
McDonnell said he would consider a compromise that could include a combination of his sales tax proposal and a gas tax increase or gradual phasing out of the gas tax, instead of ending the tax entirely.
The House version of the transportation plan is the only surviving version. The bill will have to clear the full Senate by Wednesday to remain viable.
McDonnell’s plan would raise $3.1 billion over five years, while Virginia needs to bring in at least $1 billion per year. The state’s gas and diesel fuel tax has been 17.5 cents per gallon since 1987. Indexed for inflation, that amount would be 37 cents per gallon today.
House Speaker William Howell (R-Stafford) said that “what comes out of the conference committee will be somewhat different than what goes in.”
Lawmakers from both parties and transportation experts say that a deal may require Republicans to raise revenue by agreeing to index the gas tax to inflation or boost the sales tax, while Democrats may need to rethink their refusal to use general-fund revenue on roads and highways. Some cities and urban counties, particularly in Northern Virginia, are calling for regional funding options.
Virginia Universities Join New Biosciences Group
Virginia has established the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation with the goals of fostering collaborative science research innovation, serving as a catalyst to accelerate life sciences research momentum at universities and develop jobs and new startup companies.
Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Mason University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech are the founding members of the group. Each school will contribute $50,000 to the group during the first and second years, while the General Assembly has allocated $5 million from the state’s general fund for the 2013–2014 budget year.
“Bioscience is on the forefront right now, and [research and development] investments have a tremendous economic impact in total jobs and increased annual state tax revenue,” McDonnell said in an announcement. “The Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation is another great example of a public-private partnership that will bring companies in the life sciences industry in direct collaboration with leading universities to build on Virginia’s growing momentum in this booming sector.”
Roanoke County to Host Regional Economic Summit
Roanoke County will play host to a regional economic summit Feb. 28 where area officials will discuss the Roanoke area’s strengths, challenges and opportunities.
Elected officials from neighboring Botetourt, Franklin and Montgomery counties have been invited, as well as officials from the cities of Roanoke and Salem and the town of Vinton.
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Altizer requested the meeting. He said he sees the summit as an opportunity to broaden the area’s economic development possibilities.
The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on Feb. 28 at Green Ridge Recreation Center.