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As Budget Emerges From Conference Committee, Advocates Hoped For More

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Members of the House of Delegates and state Senate have struck a deal to spend billions of dollars of stimulus money.

In a conference room in the Pocahontas Building, House and Senate leaders met literally behind closed doors to cut a deal on a plan to spend federal stimulus money. Aside from the governor's plan to replenish the unemployment trust fund and expand broadband, House and Senate leaders emerged from the closed-door meeting adding new bonuses for sheriff's deputies, correctional officers and home health care workers.

Jay Speer at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says he's more concerned about items they're not haggling over.  "We would have preferred that there would be more money for unemployment and other things such as affordable housing and some other things under family and child welfare we would have preferred," Speer says.  "But we're certainly hopeful that in the next budget cycle next year we'll see some of these things."

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says the budget negotiations that are going on right now are largely aimed at helping businesses rather than low-income people.  "The big-ticket items really are large-scale infrastructure and long-term projects that really will do little in the short term to help low-income families. So we are concerned about it in terms of an equity budget. It is not an equity budget,"  Bobo argues.

House and Senate members are expected to vote on the budget Tuesday and then move on to electing new appeals court judges.

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