Months late, Virginia’s legislature passes a budget

Virginia lawmakers have passed a final budget for fiscal year 2024, finding compromises on tax cuts and new spending initiatives after months of debate between the state’s politically divided government.

The state’s Democratic-controlled state Senate and GOP-led House of Delegates failed to agree on a budget at the end of their legislative session in February, instead passing a series of stopgap spending measures that kept the government running while negotiations continued.

Virginia operates on a biennial budget, and debate centered on amendments to the two-year spending plan adopted in 2022.

After passage of the new budget, Virginia will have allocated nearly $1 billion to the Virginia Port Authority for capital work on cargo facilities and other infrastructure over the last two years.

Disagreements were largely along party lines and centered around new tax cuts being sought by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republican legislators that state Democrats opposed, citing the $4 billion in tax cuts passed by the legislature in last year’s budget.

The new $83.8 billion budget features significant bumps to education as well as behavioral health programs championed by Youngkin.

While Republicans didn’t receive a corporate tax rate reduction among other measures they called for, Democrats did agree to around $1 billion in tax cuts, a majority of which will come by the way of one-time rebates, while also supporting the revival of a back-to-school holiday sales tax lawmakers failed to approve in the previous budget.

It also includes a 2% raise for state workers and funding for a 2% raise for teachers and other state-supported local employees.

The new plan allocates $922.8 million in capital spending, $150 million of which will go to the Virginia Port Authority; taken with the $899 million authorized in last year’s spending plan, fiscal ’24’s allocation marks an over $1 billion biennial investment by the state in the Authority as it undergoes major infrastructure updates.

$75 million will go towards improvements of the state’s cargo handling facilities and another $75 million towards the expansion of a cargo container yard servicing the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, which is undergoing $192 million in capital work cleared by lawmakers last year.

The state is seeking to sharpen its commercial cargo shipping facilities amid a redistribution of cargo traffic as analysts see a swing to East Coast ports. 

Youngkin said he applauded “the hard work” by state lawmakers and budget officials in finding a compromise.

“While the process took longer than needed, more than $1 billion in tax relief is on the way to Virginia veterans, working families, and businesses,” he said in a statement. “There’s more work to be done, but I applaud the General Assembly for their work today.”

All 40 seats in the Virginia Senate and all 100 seats in its House of Delegates are up for grabs in the state’s Nov. 7 election.