Last Wednesday, Sept, 6, the Commonwealth of Virginia took a significant step towards improving the lives of Virginians when the General Assembly returned to Richmond to vote on the final passage of the long-awaited budget deal. The clock is ticking now with the Governor having until this upcoming Friday, Sept, 15, to sign the amended budget into law. The good news is that this budget compromise represents a series of victories for the people of Virginia, as it prioritizes investments in key areas such as public education, healthcare and affordable housing, all the while providing relief for Virginia families, especially veterans and children. It is also fiscally responsible in that it recognizes that revenue growth may be subsiding and thus the focus is on one-time initiatives.
One of the most significant highlights of this budget is the substantial investment we made in Virginia’s public schools. With over $900 million allocated to public education, the budget seeks to address critical issues that have plagued the educational system. Notably, it lifts Virginia’s arbitrary cap on state funding for support staff, paving the way for an additional 3,670 support staff positions to be created across the Commonwealth. This move comes in response to the findings of this summer’s JLARC report on education funding, which highlighted the urgent need for investments in the state’s educational system. To support school divisions like Fairfax County with large percentages of low-income students, the budget allocates over $400 million in one-time flexible funding. This targeted funding aims to bridge the gap in educational opportunities and create a more equitable learning environment for all Virginian students.
Virginia taxpayers will also see direct benefits from this budget. Individual taxpayers will receive one-time tax rebates of $200, while couples filing jointly will receive $400. That should occur sometime in the fall. The annual sales tax holiday will now take place over the weekend of Oct. 20-22, 2023, providing further savings for Virginians. The deal also includes a provision that makes all of Virginia's military retirees eligible to exempt their retirement pay from income tax. This new exemption, phased into the tax code, will ultimately reach $40,000 by 2025. This change will put more money into the hands of retired veterans of every rank, demonstrating our commitment to supporting those who have served our country.
In addition to these benefits, the budget also addresses the issue of rising health insurance premiums. By lowering health insurance premiums purchased through the Exchange by 15%, the budget prevents premiums from increasing by a staggering 28.4%. This measure ensures that Virginians can access affordable healthcare and prevents them from facing financial hardship due to healthcare costs.
Lastly, the budget demonstrates a commitment to fiscal responsibility by approving less than $100 million of the Governor’s proposed $1 billion corporate tax scheme. This move rejects the most substantial tax giveaways that would primarily benefit millionaires and large corporations, instead focusing on policies that put money back into the pockets of Virginia’s workers.
In conclusion, the budget deal, which also includes strong investments in water quality, public safety, and support for 14 museums including the Gum Springs Museum and Cultural Center, approved by the General Assembly last week underlines a strong commitment to improving the lives of Virginians. By investing in education, providing one-time tax relief, and addressing healthcare challenges, this budget demonstrates a dedication to the well-being of all residents. My colleagues in the General Assembly and I are determined to put the needs of our constituents first, ensuring that no family has to make difficult choices between essential expenses, yet all the while recognizing that although we have made historic investments in education, there is even more education funding needed moving forward. That will be a battle for the next budget of 2024-25.