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General Assembly Agrees to Budget for ARPA billions

Jahd Khalil

The General Assembly approved a budget compromise between the House of Delegates and the Senate Monday, adding millions for public safety and law enforcement, but which amounted to a small fraction of the $4.3 billion legislators appropriated. 

Democratic leadership in the House of Delegates almost passed Governor Ralph Northam’s budget proposal for American Rescue Plans funds without any changes, but the Senate amended the budget last week.

After the house rejected the Senate’s amendments, negotiations between the two chambers resulted in a slightly larger price tag than originally outlined in the governor’s plan.

“In combination the amendments add $38.1 million in spending, leaving about 1.1 billion available for spending for the upcoming biennium,” House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian told the house on the floor. The biggest change was higher bonuses for corrections and law enforcement staff. The compromise raises those bonuses from $1,000 to $3,000 per person.

There was also $2.5 million for gun violence prevention, which will go to the Department of Criminal Justice Services

$38 million is no small number, but it's a tiny bit of the $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Funds legislators gathered to appropriate in this year’s second special session. Lawmakers allocated the most money for the unemployment trust fund and universal broadband access.

The House of Delegates approved the compromise, as embodied in the bill's conference report, 78-20. The Senate approved it 23-16.

The General Assembly has until the end of 2024 to appropriate the leftover funding. Governor Northam can make proposals for it in budget processes later this year.

“This generational opportunity is a result of strong leadership,” Northam said of the billion in federal assistance, in a statement released Monday.

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

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