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Virginia legislators pass separate versions of budget

February 4, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s House and Senate have passed competing versions of the state budget.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports the House Appropriations approved its revised two-year budget that includes extra money for teacher and state employee pay and down payments on high-tech education initiatives for Amazon and the state’s growing technology business sector.

The House budget would add 2 percent to the 3-percent raise for teachers in the current budget, as Gov. Ralph Northam proposed. However, the raises would take effect on Jan. 1 instead of July 1.

The chairman of the House higher education subcommittee, Del. Nick Rush, R-Montgomery, says the budget also includes an additional $45.7 million for colleges and universities, but only if they don’t “continue on the well-worn path of tuition increases.”

The House budget also would give local schools an additional $62.1 million from the state lottery for whatever priorities they choose without having to match state funds with local money.

The proposed House budget relies on about $1.2 billion in revenue from projected tax collection growth and about $222 million in savings.

The Senate Finance Committee budget focused on its proposed tax relief plan and increasing the state’s financial reserves. It includes a tax reform fund that would give taxpayers $420 million in refunds in October, while holding $80 million in reserve, along with a 5 percent teacher raise and a 3 percent general registrar raise.

It also includes about $8 million for the first installment of Northam’s proposed “tech-talent pipeline,” which aims to attract, prepare and retain workers in high-demand cybersecurity and IT jobs.

Both plans proposed using existing revenue and savings to address initiatives proposed by Northam, including expanding broadband telecommunications networks in rural areas and improving the quality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The House and Senate committees had faced a midnight deadline on Sunday to complete their budget work as Northam faced calls for his resignation because of racist photographs on his yearbook page. The second highest-ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Del. Mark Sickles, says there will be a governor to sign the budget, regardless of what happens to Northam.

“If we have a different governor, the priorities are going to be mostly, if not 100 percent, the same,” he said.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com

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