On August 25, the Virginia House of Delegates published member amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget for the 2020 special session of the General Assembly. In advance of the House Appropriations Committee meetings of August 27 and September 1 to hear presentations from non-committee members and committee members respectively, VACo sent a letter to the chairs and members of House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations stating support for several member amendments that would provide significant state support and/or flexibility for county governments as they continue to navigate the challenges imposed by the impacts of COVID-19 and desire of the General Assembly to address criminal justice reform.
VACo is supportive of the following amendments introduced by members of the House of Delegates:
Item 145 #6h (Hayes) – Sales Tax Hold Harmless: This amendment provides $95.2 million GF in FY 2021 to hold school divisions’ harmless from sales tax reforecast reduction. The impact of this funding loss on each division varies considerably because it is distributed based on school age population estimates, but every division in the state would experience a resulting budget cut in its current year funding. This is of particular concern since divisions have already included these revenues in their adopted budgets for the current year. Restoration of funds would help maintain K-12 services without further stressing county government budgets already struggling to meet the challenges of COVID-19’s impacts on revenue and delivery of services.
Item 273 #1h (McQuinn) – Adjust Language Regarding Recordation Tax Distribution: This amendment replaces the $20 million distribution that was redirected to Hampton Roads Regional Transit with any additional transportation-dedicated recordation tax revenues and a one-time use of the general fund. These funds were previously distributed to localities since 1993 and are used for transportation or public education purposes. This amendment would not impact recordation tax revenues dedicated to the Northern Virginia Transportation District or Hampton Roads Regional Transit. VACo requested this amendment from the patron and is thankful for her support and efforts on this issue.
Item 114 #1h (Sickles) – Prioritization of VATI Program for Telehealth and Online Learning (language only): VACo supports legislation that provides additional tools for counties to finance, build and operate open access networks. This amendment adds language to the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative requiring the Department of Housing and Community Development to prioritize broadband infrastructure projects that will address internet access for the purposes of telehealth and online learning. The language exempts telehealth or online learning focused projects from a requirement that the private sector partner contribute to the costs of the project.
Item 479.10 #8h (Bulova) – Child Care Stabilization (language only): This amendment provides $80 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund generated to establish a grant program to support communities and regional partnerships formed to meet child care needs while many school facilities and child care centers are closed during the COVID-19 emergency. Access to safe and affordable childcare is an essential component to allowing local businesses to resume operations and county economies to recover.
Item 482.20 #7h (Fariss)/Item 482.20 #12h (Gilbert) – Restoration of HB 599 funding: These amendments would restore $8.6 million GF per year in Aid to Localities with Police Departments (“HB 599” funding). There are a number of proposals under consideration during the special session to enhance training and other requirements for law enforcement officers, and it is important that the state provide resources to assist localities in meeting any new standards or other requirements that are adopted. HB 599 is a longstanding vehicle by which such assistance has been provided and we would encourage the restoration of these dollars.
These amendments would be beneficial for the operations of local government and VACo is thankful for the efforts of all the patrons. We strongly urge you to contact your representatives to express support that these amendments be included in any budget proposal advanced by either chamber of the General Assembly. Senator Janet Howell, who is the chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee has indicated that the Senate will not be accepting member amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget, however this does not mean that the Senate will not produce its own version of a budget to be discussed in conference with the House of Delegates.