Dear Friend,

The General Assembly met in Richmond on Monday, May 13th for a special session called for the purpose of completing the state budget. As you may recall, Virginia was at a budget impasse. The legislature left Richmond in April with the goal of returning in May after a budget agreement was reached.

The budget adopted by the legislature is a compromise budget, but includes several big wins for Republicans and Virginians across the state. Had Republicans been in charge of writing the budget, you certainly would have seen different priorities. But compromise is necessary in a divided government. I voted yes on this budget, and it passed with an overwhelming majority from both parties.

Governor Youngkin signed the state budget shortly after it was passed by the House and Senate. It goes into effect on July 1st when the state’s new fiscal year begins.

First, the new budget makes no changes to existing tax policy. Democrats had sought to include $2.6 billion in new taxes. Virginia’s tax revenues continue to rise, despite $5 billion in tax cuts pushed by Governor Yougkin during the first two years of his term. While it does not include additional tax cuts that I had hoped for, the absence of tax increases is a big win for families.

Also in the category of wins for Virginians, the budget does not include language that Democrats sought to include that would force the state to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI aims to reduce carbon emissions amongst member states. It’s a laudable goal, but it doesn’t actually do much to achieve its intended goal. The costs in the form of additional riders on Virginia’s electric bills aren’t worth the negligible outcome. At a time when the cost of living continues to increase, rejoining RGGI would have only made energy bills more expensive for families. Leaving this requirement out of the state budget was the right thing to do.

I am additionally pleased to see this budget prioritize students, teachers, and law enforcement.

Like the introduced version of the budget Governor Youngkin presented last December, this budget represents the largest investment in K-12 education in state history. That includes a 3% raise for public school teachers and an increased focus on literacy to help students negatively impacted by COVID era school closures read at an appropriate level.

Law enforcement will see raises and increased funding from the state, as well as an increase in state funding for law enforcement agencies through what is known as 599 funding. The budget will continue funding Operation Ceasefire, a data proven method to reduce gun violence, and makes further investments in youth diversion programs.

This budget also reflects legislation vetoed by Governor Youngkin earlier this year. For example, the state will save $80 million thanks to the Governor’s veto of a minimum wage hike. Overall, these vetoes and other technical amendments saved taxpayers around $115 million.

As I stated, this budget is a compromise budget. I do not like all aspects of this spending plan. I am particularly disappointed with budget language that negatively impacts the Virginia Military Survivors & Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP). This program offers disabled veterans and their dependents, as well as the children of service members killed in action, financial assistance with undergraduate studies. For some time, there has been discussion to make tweaks to the program to ensure it is not being abused. Further discussions were needed, and I was disappointed to see language that wrecks this vital fund included in the budget.

Talks are already underway to fix VMSDEP and make appropriate changes that will ensure its long term viability. I look forward to continuing to participate in those talks and hope that the General Assembly can swiftly remedy this error.

In addition to the state budget, Speaker Don Scott announced the creation of a select committee to study campus safety and first amendment expression. This comes after protests in support of the terrorist group Hamas became violent, broke existing law, and were disbanded. The select committee will be tasked with providing recommendations to the House of Delegates for new laws that will ensure the right of individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner that respects the rights of others. Though I am not a member of this committee, I will be following its work closely.

I hope you found this update informative. If I can assist you or your family with a state-related issue in the future, let me know.

Mike Cherry