The 2016 Session of the General Assembly concluded this past Friday, one day earlier than expected. Although the legislators will return on April 20 to consider any actions on the budget or other legislation taken by the governor, I write to share with you the items that are of most consequence to VCU and VCU Health from the biennial budget.
I am pleased that VCU fared well this session, as did higher education generally. The top items prioritized by the Board of Visitors in the institution’s six-year plan were all supported. The commonwealth’s budget provides an additional $10.8 million in operating increase over the biennium for VCU, includes a 3 percent merit-based average salary increase for our employees, and retains the governor’s infusion of an additional $4.4 million for undergraduate financial aid in FY 2017. Research at VCU Massey Cancer earned an additional $6 million, bringing the annual total to $12.5 million.
To the benefit of both VCU and VCU Health, the General Assembly also advanced all three of our top capital requests by providing construction funding for the new School of Allied Health Professions and School of Engineering buildings, as well as providing for our ability to plan for the much-needed STEM laboratories on the Monroe Park Campus. Bond issuance for these projects is contingent upon the governor’s authorization of bonds for renovation and construction of certain projects on Capitol Square.
The governor’s proposed Medicaid expansion and all related savings were removed from the final budget. Acute care hospitals, including VCU Health, received a partial Medicaid inflation update of 1.3 percent in the first year of the budget only.
Importantly, and of great benefit to VCU Health patients, the General Assembly retained the governor’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD) program, which will create expanded benefits for current Medicaid recipients and will increase provider rates to treat patients with SUD. Similarly, the General Assembly expanded the governor’s Access Program, which provides primary care and outpatient services to the uninsured, from 60 percent of the federal poverty limit (FPL) to 80 percent FPL.
I appreciate the strong support the elected leaders of our commonwealth continue to provide to VCU. We are proud to be their partner as a public university committed to the future of Virginia and its people.
I also thank you for your continued work to advance VCU as an institution worthy of the state’s resources. By investing in our university, our lawmakers are really investing in our people. Thank you for ensuring their trust and generosity.