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More than a Month into Special Session, House and Senate Produce Budget Proposals

It’s been over a month since the General Assembly convened for a special session.

Friday, the House and Senate unveiled their proposals for how the state should spend its money in an era marked by a pandemic and calls for social justice.

By drawing on federal relief aid and state funds, lawmakers are proposing to allocate millions for broadband infrastructure, healthcare, unemployment and support for schools that are struggling to adapt in difficult times. 

"This has been a year of unprecedented unknowns as we respond to the steepest economic decline since the Great Depression and the greatest health crisis in 100 years," Delegate Luke Torian noted.  He chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Read the House budget presentation

Torian presented a budget that includes about $250 million more in new spending than Governor Northam proposed in August. That’s not including an additional $200 million in spending that hinges upon revenue not declining.

Senator Janet Howell also released her chamber’s proposal.  "This package of amendments still prioritizes the people of Virginia, and the recommendations are made with focus on continuing to equalize that with the need for a structural balance."

Read the Senate budget presentation

The Senate set aside more money than the House, but they have a higher amount going into FY 2022. But because they didn't allocate that money on the books, it would take action from Governor Northam for the General Assembly to actually spend those funds.

Now the chambers have to negotiate their differences. And ultimately the fate of Virginia’s budget will likely be decided behind doors in a conference committee.

Different takes on criminal justice

The House also set aside $28 million to fund ten criminal justice reform bills that have passed that chamber and are awaiting action in the Senate.

Eleven bills passed by the Senate will have an estimated fiscal impact of about $11 million. The upper-chamber is also proposing to give $500 bonuses to state and state-supported law enforcement officers in December.  That proposal carries a total cost of $18 million.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.