From Virginia House Majority Whip Alfonso Lopez:
In Biennial Budget, House Majority Whip Alfonso Lopez and Dem Leadership Secure Critical Funding for the Commonwealth
Secured five percent raise for teachers, increase in Affordable Housing funding, and $150 million for Chesapeake Bay cleanup.
RICHMOND, VA — On Friday, the Virginia House of Delegates Democratic Majority passed it’s biennial budget (HB1800) by a vote of 68-30 to secure FY 2020-2022 funding in critical areas such as public education, COVID-19 relief, and environmental cleanup.
Delegate Lopez and the House Democratic leadership worked together to secure a five percent raise for Virginia’s teachers for the upcoming fiscal year.
“Our teachers are our heroes,” said Lopez. “That has never been more true than during this pandemic as they’ve adapted to virtual learning and essentially reinvented their jobs in an effort to support and educate our students.”
Several budget amendments related to legislation that Lopez introduced this session.
As the Commonwealth continues to address pandemic-related concerns, including issues around looming evictions and housing instability, Delegate Lopez worked to secure over $100 million in state funds for the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund (HTF), which Lopez created with legislation he introduced in 2013. This is a significant increase from the $18 million secured for the HTF in the 2019 biennial budget. In addition, the HTF will also be backed by $563 million in Federal Funds for rental assistance and evictions/homelessness prevention in the upcoming fiscal year.
“I’m incredibly proud of how the Affordable Housing Trust Fund has grown and become a central part of addressing the eviction and homelessness crisis during the pandemic,” said Lopez. “Being able to protect the thousands of renters and mortgage holders across Virginia from losing their homes is exactly why we put the Housing Trust Fund in place.”
In addition, the budget made progress in helping Virginia meet its 2025 water quality improvement requirements. $150 million was included in the House budget to fund Virginia’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan Enhanced Nutrient Removal Certainty Program. This is the beginning of an $800 million dollar overhaul of the state’s Chesapeake Bay watershed policy that was Patroned by Delegate Lopez (HB 2129) this session. This initial $150 million in funding is a critical step in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and puts the project on course for completion by 2025.
“This bill mandates pollution reduction, guarantees reduction will happen on a certain timetable, and by agreeing to these specific targets saves $173 million for the State Water Quality Improvement Fund compared to other proposed methods of cleanup,” stated Lopez.
Funding was also secured for other legislation patroned by Delegate Lopez, including in-state financial aid for undocumented students and enabling 16 and 17 years olds to pre-register to vote.
“As we crossover into the Special Session, I could not be prouder of the work we have done to start this year,” said Lopez. “We are providing support for families during these difficult times, addressing COVID-19 concerns, and making communities safer.”
Among other things, the budget includes funding to:
Protect Virginia Families
- Improving education by allocating $231.4 million for five percent teacher pay raises
- $429.5 million for no-loss payments to public schools, in addition to $1.3 billion in Federal relief and $51.1 million to address COVID-19 learning loss
- Funding to reach a 1:325 school counselor-to-student ratio
- A 3.5 percent pay raise for state employees
- $84 million to maintain affordable access to Virginia colleges and universities and $8.5 million to increase Tuition Assistance Grant awards and include online students
Keep Virginia Healthy
- Paid sick leave for essential workers
- A $12 per patient, per day increase in nursing home payments
- Prenatal care through Medicaid/FAMIS regardless of the pregnant person’s citizenship status
- $300,000 for an actuarial study on creating a paid family and medical leave program
- Funding for worker’s compensation for health care workers and first responders who die from, or are totally or partially disabled by, COVID-19 as an occupational disease suffered in the line of duty
Rebuild a stronger, cleaner economy
- An additional $20 million in funding directed to Rebuild VA small business grants, bringing the program total to $140 million
- Funding for a pilot program allowing public broadband authorities to compete for 10% of Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grants
- A one-time $5 million capitalization to fund electric vehicle rebates
- Additional funding for agricultural best management practices to meet Chesapeake Bay clean-up benchmarks
Virginia also received direct federal support of $845 million to our schools to support K-12 and higher education, as well as over $560 million to address rent and utility relief for low-income Virginians.
The budget that the House passed begins with Governor Northam’s proposed budget, which included a net spending increase of nearly $1.5 billion, focused on funding for education, additional criminal justice reform, expanded access to broadband, and health care. The budget will now need to be reconciled with the Senate version.