2019 Budget Preview

Tuesday, Governor Northam unveiled his budget proposals for the 2019 General Assembly Session to the Joint Money Committees. Key elements of the Governor's budget include:
  • Revenues. Virginia is on positive financial footing, and this year the commonwealth saw better revenues than anticipated. The Governor's analysis predicts that these positive economic trends should continue. Additional sources of revenue may come from the General Assembly's decisions about the Internet Sales Tax and conforming to changes in the federal tax code.
  • Investing $268.7 million in new money for K-12 education: The proposed budget includes an additional 2 percent raise in teacher salaries, totaling $88 million, that will result in a total 5 percent raise effective July 1, 2019.  The proposed budget also reflects an estimated increase in Virginia Lottery proceeds, allocating  nearly $70 million to boost the At-Risk Add-On and Supplemental Lottery Per Pupil Allocation. The proposed budget also includes an $80 million one-time deposit in the Literary Fund, freeing up resources to be used for low-interest loans for school construction. Read more on these initiatives here
  • Investing an additional $39 million in new money to ensure safe learning environments for K-12 students.
    The proposed budget allocates $36 million to fund the first installment of a three-year, phased approach to hire enough school counselors to reduce caseloads to the best practice 1:250 ratio.  Additionally, the proposed budget provides $3.3 million to the Virginia Center for School Campus Safety to fund additional safety measures.  Read more on these investments here.
  • Significant funding to address water quality, storm water, and support land conservation. The proposed budget seeks to accelerate Virginia's progress towards 2015 targets for reduction in the Chesapeake Bay and ensure that the Commonwealth meets its cleanup goals. The proposed budget increases funding for Virginia's agricultural best management practices (BMP) cost share program, the technical experts needed to assist farmers, and several important nonpoint source water quality programs to $90 million per year by FY 2020. It also dedicates $50 million to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) to help urban and suburban areas reduce pollution coming off of impervious surfaces.  The proposed budget also adds $11 million for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation to support a data-driven land conservation strategy announced in April and $2.5 million to begin returning the Department of Environmental Quality to previous staffing levels to properly regulate and enforce Virginia's environmental standards and begin implementing the recommendations of Executive Order Six.  Read more about these investments here.
  • Significant Investments to Accelerate Virginia's Progress Towards Universal Broadband Access.  The proposed budget increases funding for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI), a program that incentivizes internet service providers to expand their service to Virginians that are unserved, to $50 million in Fiscal Year 2020, matched by local, federal, and private funds, helping to connect tens of thousands more Virginians. Additional investments will support the technical expertise needed to assist local governments in developing detailed plans to connect all their citizens. Read more about these investments here.
  • Increased Financial Aid. The proposed budget allocates $15.5 million for additional need-based financial aid for public four- and two-year higher education institutions in Virginia. The proposed budget also includes an additional $5.2 million for the Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program, increasing the award to an annual amount of $3,400.  The proposed budget also includes language requiring higher education institutions to develop tuition predictability plans as a part of their biennial six-year financial plans submitted to SCHEV. These predictability plans will outline the expected cost of tuition and fees-for a period of at least three years-that in-state, undergraduate students shall be expected to pay. Read more about these proposals here.
  • Affordable Housing Options and Eviction Reduction Strategies. The proposed budget allocates an additional $19 million over the biennium to the Housing Trust Fund, which will enable it to increase its capacity to address homelessness and expand the supply of quality, affordable housing.  The proposed budget also adds funding to help reduce eviction levels, including $2.6 million to expand access to legal assistance for individuals and families facing eviction proceedings. Finally, the proposed budget includes funding for the Department of Housing and Community Development to hire staff to work across state government and with stakeholders to find innovative ways to pilot eviction diversion and prevention programs.  Read more about these proposals here.
  • Compensation. The proposed budget includes funding for a one-time, one percent bonus for state employees effective December 2019, the state's share of a one percent bonus for state-supported local employees, and an increase in the health insurance credits for state police, deputy sheriffs, and other state law enforcement officers who retire with at least 15 years of service.
  • Veterans. The proposed budget includes funding for behavioral health support positions for veterans, and new positions to help process benefits.  The proposed budget also adds positions to help our veterans transition into the civilian workforce.
  • Reserves.  Governor Northam also outlined a plan to put Virginia on a path to committing 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of his administration.
You can read the Governor's remarks at the joint money committees meeting here or watch the video here.
Senator McClellan Talks Equal Rights Amendment on the Radio. 
The campaign to make Virginia the 38th State to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is getting national attention! Tuesday, I called in to "Law of the Land with Gloria J. Browne-Marshall" to discuss the ERA. We also talked about the 400th Commemoration of the Anniversary of the arrival of Africans to Jamestown and our restoration of rights efforts. You can listen to my interview here.

December 10, 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights. I joined Dr. E. Faye Williams and Chris Garlock for a special program on WPFR in honor of Human Rights Day to discuss women's rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. You can listen to that interview here.

At the beginning of the month, I joined  Sen. Rosalyn Dance, Delegate Kelly Convirs-Flowers, Delegate Hala Ayala and VAratifyERA Coordinator Kati Hornung on Susan Platt's inaugural episode of Find Your Roar. Listen to the audio here.

As I prepare for the 2019 session, I am eager to hear from you on issues you care about. To share your views on legislation or identify individuals or organizations that should be commended in 2018, contact my office at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov.  You can also stop by my office in the Pocahontas Building, located at 900 East Main Street. My offices are located in E512.
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