Federal Aid and Unexpected Revenues Could Fund 'Historic Investments'
Lawmakers are eyeing major investments in infrastructure and programming, as the federal government appropriated billions in relief money and state revenues came in higher than expected.
“It is actually a good day to be here, as I do bring good news,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne on Monday, presenting to the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee. “It's the largest monthly increase in the 21st century.”
Previous projections had only accounted for a 2.7% increase in annual general fund revenues. Total revenues had grown by 12.8%. April had an monthly increase of 41.9%.
“In terms of the national picture, we are here in Virginia one of the states that has all the major revenue sources for the most part,” said Chris Wodicka of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.
The revenue increases come alongside $7.2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and the interest gained on the state’s $4.3 billion share of the recovery package.
“Even though interest rates are low, anything on $4.3 billion is a great deal of money,” Layne said.
The Governor and democratic leadership in the General Assembly said in a joint press release they wanted to spend the money on public health, small businesses, workers, and public schools. They also said they would speed up a years long plan to fully deploy broadband across Virginia in an 18-month timeframe.
“With the new federal recovery funds coming in and then on top of the pretty healthy state revenue situation, I think there is an opportunity to make some historic investments and to really invest in areas that had seen lower funding over the years,” said Wodicka.
They specifically named helping restaurants, hotels, museums, gyms, and theaters; replenishing the Unemployment trust fund and updating the Virginia Employment Commission's out of date computer infrastructure; and “rehabilitating and upgrading” Virginia schools.
This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.