Budget Deal

June 2, 2022


A few weeks ago, Governor Youngkin called a Special Session of the General Assembly to hammer out the details of our two-year budget for the Commonwealth.

Members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee have come to an agreement on a budget which brings me to Richmond today to vote on their proposal.

As I wrote about in a previous email, during the regular General Assembly session, I supported the House version of the budget due to the focus it had on tax relief and important priorities like school funding and resource officers. Coming into this budget cycle, Virginia was blessed with a projected budget surplus of more than $16 billion. This budget we just passed does much that I support and with which I strongly agree; however, it returns to the taxpayers only 25% of the surplus. With the developing fiscal train wreck in Washington, families are contending with financial challenges on all fronts — wages that just can’t keep up with record high gas prices, inflation at 30-year highs, rising interest rates, skyrocketing housing costs, and rising cost of food and electricity. We need to put those challenges of working Virginians first. We could do better, and with targeted amendments from the Governor, I am hopeful that we will. 

The compromise budget that the finance committees released this past weekend did contain some of those priorities… 

★     Over $4.2 billion in tax relief in the form of one-time tax rebates for Virginians and standard deduction increases

★     $730 million over two years for salary raises for teachers

★     $113 million for law enforcement salary raises

★     $100 million for lab school initiatives (although I would prefer charter schools rather than schools run by the universities responsible for teaching public school teachers)

★     $5 million for Operation Ceasefire funding

★     $45 million over two years in support for the School Resource Officer Incentive Grant Program

I am pleased to see general fund dollars being spent for transportation. For years, Democrats have argued that transportation must be funded exclusively from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and that even in times of plenty, the expenditure of general funds for transportation is nothing more than a raid on education dollars. That argument has always been specious. The TTF consists primarily of gas tax revenues. The fact is that between increasing fuel economy and the advent of electric vehicles, our transportation dollars will need to come from somewhere else. I am disappointed, however, that all this general fund transportation money is being spent on widening the stretch of I-64 between New Kent and James City County and none on I-81.

I did not vote for this budget today for a few reasons. First, I believe in limiting the size and scope of government. This state budget is about two times the size of Governor McDonnell’s last budget. As Virginians continue to struggle with rising costs, we need to be diligent to limit government spending to the extent possible. We seem to aspire to a different goal — expanding government spending to the extent possible. A once in a lifetime opportunity to make major structural changes in Virginia tax policy was missed.

This budget also missed important opportunities and included many misguided spending initiatives: 

●      No gas tax relief was included in this budget

●      The grocery tax was not fully repealed

●      $210 million was set aside for I-64 but none for I-81

●      Tuition Assistance Grants for in-state students attending Virginia’s private colleges and universities was increased to $4,500, but students attending Virginia’s private Historically Black Colleges and Universities will receive an additional $5,000  ($9,000 total)

●      We found $100,000 for the Sports Hall of Fame but inexplicably  no money included to provide Virginia Line of Duty Act benefits for the families of the two fallen Bridgewater officers

●      $5 million for a CASA welcome center in Northern Virginia

●      $10 million in financial aid for undocumented students

I examine closely the line items to which we are allocating taxpayer dollars because I believe strongly in our responsibility to stick to conservative and disciplined financial principles. This year we had the biggest surplus in Virginia history but did not take the critical step to reform our tax code to return more hard-earned dollars to Virginians who need it. I am however, confident that the Governor will offer amendments to the budget to address some of the issues I have raised. I look forward to voting for those amendments.

If you have questions about the budget process or about the line items in the budget, you can visit budget.lis.virginia.gov or you can email me at [email protected].


Mark Obenshain