Richmond Report by Delegate Kaye Kory

On June 1, the General Assembly convened in Richmond to vote on the biennial budget conference report. Eight years of strong leadership under Democratic administrations, a strong economic recovery and billions in federal pandemic aid have given us a rare opportunity to invest in Virginians and give back to the Commonwealth.

And yet, a divided General Assembly with vastly different spending priorities has led to protracted negotiations and a lack of transparency in the process.

While the budget encompasses many of the priorities that Democrats fought tirelessly for, it fails to accomplish the spending that could have improved the standing of our public education nationally.
My colleague, delegate Dawn Adams, shared this summary; a brief overview of what was included in the budget and, just as important, what was omitted:

Good:

Provides $4 billion in tax relief over three years;
A one-time discount of $250 for individuals or $500 for families;
Increases standard deduction to $8,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers;
$301 million in graduated tax relief for military retirees age 55 or older;
$315 million to make the Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit partially refundable (15% of the federal EITC);
Eliminates the 1.5% state tax on groceries on January 1, 2023, while allowing localities to still opt for a 1% tax to fund essential priorities;
$1.25 billion in funding for school infrastructure investments to replace or repair outdated school buildings
Grants a 10% raise over two years to state employees and teachers, plus $1,000 bonuses
$391 million to fund 600 additional developmental disability waivers and increase reimbursement rates;
Increases Medicaid reimbursements for personal care and dental services by 7.5% and 30%, respectively;
Provides $140 million in funding for need-based undergraduate financial aid.

The bad:

Directs $100 million to fund experimental lab schools rather than investing in Virginia’s public school system;
Halving the $269 million project at additional risk, a program that directs additional funds to schools with high concentrations of low-income families;
Eliminates proposed $150 million in additional funding from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund to support affordable housing initiatives and prevent homelessness;
Underfunds the Gun Violence Prevention and Response Fund by cutting Senate proposal by $16 million at a time when gun violence across the country and the Commonwealth is at an all-time high;
Delay the elimination of polystyrene food containers to 2028;
Establishes a criminal offense for possession of marijuana over 4 ounces (and by default, includes products that weigh the same weight) although marijuana was legalized in 2021;
Essentially legalizes retail cannabis sales by allowing the sale of “hemp” with unlimited amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, as long as the products are labeled for their content;
Fails to relieve Virginians of high gas prices;
Structure the 10% increase for state employees and teachers, so that only 2.5% is applied this year and 7.5% the following ones (which is not guaranteed).

I have never witnessed such an opaque process in my years in Delegation. Some budget speakers met behind closed doors and did not seek input from the public or general public
Membership in the House and the Senate.

Lawmakers had less than 72 hours to review the conference report and did not have a chance to propose amendments before proceeding to the vote. Although I support the budget, it is important for me to express my disagreements.

The House of Delegates will return to Richmond by June 30 on a date to be determined to vote on any amendments the governor makes to the listed budget.

Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. It can be emailed to [email protected]



Jerry B. Hatch