Among the 40 amendments proposed by Governor Ralph Northam to the 2019 Appropriations Act is a recommendation to provide additional clarity and flexibility regarding the state share of salary increases for instructional and support staff listed in the Standards of Quality (SOQ) for the three percent salary incentive increase effective July 1, 2019, and the two percent salary incentive increase effective September 1, 2019. All school divisions are eligible to receive some or all of the additional two percent in state funding for salary increases if they provide a salary increase between July 1, 2019, and September 1, 2019. Under the budget as passed by the General Assembly, in order to qualify for the state share of the two percent salary increase, school divisions had to have provided salary increases over the biennium to match the three percent increase, in addition to the local share of the two percent increase or portion thereof.
The Governor recommends that any school division that was unable to provide the three percent salary increase over the biennium would still be eligible to receive the state share of a salary increase up to two percent effective September 1, 2019. Salary increases for these positions are voluntary. VACo supports this amendment.
The Governor proposed several other budget amendments of interest to local governments, including:
- Providing $1.5 million in General Funds (GF) in FY 2019 to support outreach in preparation for the 2020 Census. This funding was included in the introduced budget but was removed by the General Assembly during the Session.
- Providing an additional $4 million GF in FY 2019 for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
- Revising language in the enrolled budget directing the convening of a workgroup on balance billing for emergency services by health care providers who are out-of-network for insurance companies. The enrolled budget directed the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to convene the workgroup; the Governor’s amendments would instead assign the responsibility to the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in collaboration with the SCC and the Secretaries of Administration and Finance.
- Extending the Joint Subcommittee Studying Mental Health Services in the Commonwealth in the 21st Century from December 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020.
- Authorizing bond funding for the replacement of Central State Hospital. The Governor also proposed amendments to language directing the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to develop a plan to “right-size” the state behavioral health hospital system; the amendments would require the plan to evaluate the possibility of relocating forensic beds to state-owned property other than the current Central State Hospital location.
- Eliminating budget language that would prohibit a state agency from purchasing or implementing body-worn cameras.
- Eliminating budget language that captures the first $40 million of sales and use taxes collected from online retailers with a physical nexus within the Commonwealth, effective July 1, 2020, for the Major Headquarters Workforce Grant Fund established as part of the Amazon HQ2 project.
- Specifying that the Department of Taxation is not permitted to grant waivers to temporarily suspend or delay requirements for marketplace facilitators (such as eBay) to collect or report sales and use taxes due. This authority had been provided to the Department in legislation that passed in 2019 to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Wayfair case about collection of sales and use taxes from remote sellers.