FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RICHMOND, VA – On Friday the House Appropriations Committee reported House Bill 5005. Changes to the biennial budget, originally passed in March, were necessary to account for the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and for criminal justice reform. The General Assembly had first frozen most new spending in the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget during April’s reconvened session.
House Appropriations Chair Luke Torian and Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn issued the following joint statement: We entered this Special Session with the mandate to balance a budget facing significantly reduced revenues while funding new policies that will make Virginia a safer, healthier, and more just Commonwealth. The budget introduced by the House this morning meets our goals.
We are protecting our public schools by restoring previously reduced K-12 funding and providing new flexibility to local school divisions. As students across Virginia are tackling virtual schooling, we are taking steps to expand internet access by cutting red tape around broadband infrastructure projects related to online learning and telehealth. The budget also includes provisions to support the needs of our higher education institutions during these challenging financial times. The budget supports our health care system, directing Coronavirus Relief Funds toward the overburdened sectors caring for our most vulnerable Virginians.
The budget also includes unprecedented protections for Virginia ratepayers and safeguards for those facing eviction during this pandemic. This budget meets the challenges of the current moment and looks toward Virginia’s future. We are accounting for new criminal justice reform measures such as the Marcus Alert and restoring funding to the Pre and Post Incarceration Services program. We are doing all this while protecting Virginia’s AAA bond rating under a diminished revenue reforecast.
We were proud of the historic budget we passed earlier this year. Unfortunately, the economic crisis requires us to defer many of the initiatives we adopted last March. We will be back in session in January with a formal forecast and the opportunity to make further strides toward achieving this majority’s priorities.
HB5005 follows a standalone budget passed in August to fund voter access measures for November’s elections. The separate funding bill allowed voter access changes such as prepaid postage, secure ballot drop-off locations, and an absentee ballot “cure” process – necessary in light of the pandemic – to be put in place as early as possible to allow Virginia’s general registrars adequate time for implementation.
Delegate Luke Torian represents House District 52 in the Virginia House of Delegates, serving Dale City, Woodbridge, and the towns of Dumfries and Occoquan. He has held office since 2009 and serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. He is also a member of the House Rules and General Laws committees.