Va. budget provides teacher pay increase, taxpayer rebate checks

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Jun. 27—Tax rebates for citizens, a pay raise for teachers, eliminating the state's grocery tax and funding for law enforcement measures are all part of the new Virginia state budget recently signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

During a ceremony last week, the Republican governor signed the Virginia state budget, which he said delivers on his promise to provide tax relief for Virginian families, increase funding for law enforcement, and support the development of lab schools, among other key initiatives of his Day One Game Plan.

"Every day we have worked hard to build a more prosperous Virginia, with greater opportunity for future generations," Youngkin said after the June 22 ceremony. "Together, we enacted historic tax cuts and made record investments in education and public safety. Together, we stood for greater accountability and transparency in government. and together, we are building an opportunity society, where Virginians can find the jobs they are looking for right here in the Commonwealth. This has always been about the movement we created together. It's the people who sent us all to Richmond who make this Virginia we love so great."

Senator Travis Hackworth, R-Tazewell, said he had spoken with Delegate James W. "Will" Morefield, R-Tazewell, and understood that teachers would not be receiving a 10 percent pay raise that's part of the new budget until August. Teachers would see this increase as soon as it is implemented into payroll schedules.

The new budget also includes rebates for Virginia taxpayers, $250 payments for single filers and $500 payments for joint filers, which could start arriving later this summer, Hackworth said.

The state's law enforcement agencies will benefit from the new budget as well, he said. It includes $42,000 starting salaries for sheriffs, deputies and department of corrections officers. The Virginia State Police also saw an increase in its budget.

Hackworth said the new budget provides funding to address an ongoing problem law enforcement agencies have when handling mental hygiene cases. Individuals undergoing mental issues have to be picked up, taken to a medical facility for diagnosis, then taken to a state mental health facility. This takes 48 to 72 hours of an officer's time.

The new state budget adds money to mental health facilities, offers bonuses and raises to retain and recruit personnel, and helps to assist "with the mental health crisis we are experiencing," Hackworth said.

The current situation is "frustrating" for towns that have only one police officer," he stated. If that officer is called out on a mental hygiene case, there is nobody left to patrol the town. That means that county sheriff's deputies have to be called in to fill the void.

Hackworth said that he worked with Morefield on flood relief for residents of Hurley, Va., which experienced a devastating flash flood in August 2021.

Morefield said that tax rebates "will likely start to be made available to taxpayers this fall."

"The delayed budget pushed back the timing for the Department of Taxation," he stated. "The teacher raises will go into effect August 1 of this year under the stipulation that localities have a match."

"Most of the members would have preferred the budget be adopted several months ago, but considering the number of accomplishments we were able to achieve, I am confident it will be good for all Virginians," Morefield added. "I am now the third ranking member on the Appropriations Committee and I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of the Appropriations process."

Morefield said the budget ensures Virginia will maintain its AAA bond rating, and makes significant tax cuts, including the elimination of the grocery tax on food.

"The budget nearly doubled the standard deduction for tax payers, provided an income tax subtraction for military retirees age 55 or older of $10,000 in tax year 2022 and $20,000 in tax year 2023, and provides 10 percent raises for state and state-supported employees including teachers and law enforcement," Morefield said. "My top priority during the session was to ensure the flood victims of Hurley received the assistance they needed to help rebuild their lives. I could not be more excited to see the flood victims finally receive the help they need. The $11.4 million dollar grant program will be officially established in the coming days ahead with details released by the Department of Housing and Community Development on how to apply for assistance."

Other lawmakers also applauded the budget.

"I'm very proud of the budget that we have put forward. The end result is not only a structurally-balanced budget that protects our AAA bond rating, but a budget that funds our priorities while simultaneously providing tax relief," said Delegate Barry Knight, House Appropriations Committee Chair. "No new general fund debt, no tax hikes, no higher fees. It's a budget we can all be proud of."

"After months of effort we have successfully completed the state budget process. Working together across party lines, we have made historic investments in our educational system from preschool through grad school, mental health services, economic development programs, and our park systems," added Senator Janet Howell, Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair. "We have also made unprecedented additions to our reserves, thus protecting our AAA bond rating."

The final Virginia state budget has initiatives to ensure Virginia is the best state to live, work, and raise a family, Youngkin said. These initiatives include:

—Providing almost $4 billion in tax relief to Virginians.

—The largest tax relief in Virginia history.

—Eliminates the 1.5 percent state grocery tax.

—Nearly doubles the standard deduction to $8,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint.

—Gives every Virginia taxpayer a tax rebate of $250 for single filers and $500 for joint.

—Exempts $40,000 of veteran retirement income tax for veterans over 55.

—Boosts education spending to the largest level in Virginia history with $3.2 billion in direct aid.

—Raises teacher pay by 10 percent.

—Provides $100 million to launch lab schools with colleges, including community colleges and HBCUs.

—Provides almost $900 million in funding to Virginia's HBCUs.

—Funds the Virginia Literacy Act with nearly $10 million.

—$1.25 billion in grants and loans to support school construction.

—Requires each public college to adopt an official policy on academic freedom and begin reporting on the state of free expression and diversity of thought on their campus.

—Provides $45 million to fund school resource officers.

—Establishes $13 million for violence prevention grants including Operation Ceasefire.

—Provides $400 million in compensation and additional support for law enforcement and public safety heroes.

—Prevents the early release of over 500 violent inmates.

—Invests $150 million in site development to attract job creators.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com