May 14, 2024 - News

Virginia lawmakers pass budget including 3% raise for teachers and state workers

Illustration of the Virginia State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Lawmakers passed and Gov. Youngkin signed the state's biennial budget after reconvening for a brief special session in Richmond on Monday.

Why it matters: Virginia was facing the possibility of a government shutdown on July 1 if it didn't approve a new two-year blueprint.

Catch up quick: The budget passed 94-6 in the House and 39-1 in the Senate; seven Republicans total voted against it.

  • It comes after a compromise between Youngkin, a Republican and leaders of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, who last month voted to reject all of Youngkin's budget amendments in favor of creating the new budget, Virginia Mercury reported.

Zoom in: The $188 billion budget for fiscal years 2024-26 is nearly identical to the one the Democrat-controlled legislature proposed in March, Cardinal News reported.

Among the highlights of the budget lawmakers passed, per the Times-Dispatch:

  • Raises: K-12 teachers, school support staff and all state employees are set to get 3% annual raises each year for the next two years.
  • Schools: K-12 public schools will see $2.5 billion in new state funding.
  • Early childhood: Plus, there's $527.8 million extra for early childhood programs.
  • Higher-ed: And more than $200 million to cap tuition increases for higher education.

What's no longer in the budget:

RGGI: Democrats agreed to drop their push for Virginia to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate compact aiming to reduce carbon emission and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, per AP.

Digital sales tax: Youngkin had initially proposed an expanded state sales tax to include digital purchases, like streaming services and music downloads, as part of a broader tax restructure.

  • Instead, a joint legislative subcommittee will study the issue for possible action next year, per Virginia Mercury.

Skills games: The budget doesn't lay out a future for so-called skills games, the slots-like betting machines found in convenience stores and trucks stops, Virginia Mercury reports.

  • The General Assembly was poised to legalize them until Youngkin rewrote that bill to essentially ban them in most places.
  • Revenue from the machines was stripped from the budget lawmakers passed, but regulatory provision that could allow for the games in the near future remained in.

What they're saying: "This budget is a resounding win for Virginia, setting the stage for prosperity and progress for years to come," said Senate Finance Chair and Democrat L. Louise Lucas said in a statement.

Worth noting: Some of Democrats' legislative priorities, like teacher raises and more K-12 funding, were made possible in part because the budget no longer has to accommodate a minimum wage increase, which Youngkin vetoed, per AP.

What we're watching: For a possible skills games special session, which will likely happen this summer, according to reports, so don't count those gas station games dead yet.

Fun fact: This budget was the fastest adopted yet for Virginia's divided state government under Gov. Youngkin.

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