Northam: Strong Economy Means More Money For State Budget

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is telling lawmakers that a stronger than expected economy means they will have an extra $180 million to spend when crafting a state budget.

Northam said in a letter to lawmakers Friday that new tax and other revenue estimates for fiscal year 2020 shows an expected increase of about $293 million. By law, about $112 million of that will go to the state’s reserves, leaving lawmakers to decide how to spend the rest.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are set to unveil their proposed $135 billion two-year state budgets on Sunday. The General Assembly is expected to finalize a budget before the legislative session ends next month.

Northam, a Democrat, has proposed hefty new spending on education, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and affordable housing. He’s also proposed higher gas and tobacco taxes.

Education advocates said the governor’s budget is an improvement over the status quo, but doesn’t go far enough to address long-standing needs in school construction, low teacher pay, and overall education funding.

Democrats, who have new majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, will have full control of this year’s budget process for the first time in two decades.

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