Your Turn — Education improvements highlight amended state budget

Published 3:33 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

Last Wednesday, Governor Youngkin sent 38 budget amendments, three in HB 29 (the caboose budget) and 35 in HB 30 (the biennial budget), focusing on expanding opportunities for education, keeping our communities safe, and making Virginia the best state for business.

It took longer than usual, but the Commonwealth’s biennial budget for 2022-2024 is done. The General Assembly considered Governor Youngkin’s amendments at Special Session I Friday, June 17, and both budget bills passed the House and the Senate. Governor Youngkin signed HB 29 and HB 30 on Tuesday in a public ceremony.

Information on amendments can be found at:

HB 29- https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?222+sum+HB29

HB30- https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?222+sum+HB30

The final budget, while not perfect, makes significant strides in areas that Virginians told us they wanted to see improved. First, the budget restored funding to the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit program, which will allow more than 300 children from low-income families to continue receiving high-quality education from small private schools in their local communities. This is a small win in the fight for universal school choice, under which we fund students rather than systems, but it is a win, nonetheless.

Not only does the budget invest record funding in our K-12 schools, but it also opens the door for lab schools to be created across the Commonwealth. These centers of educational innovation will help Virginia educators develop new and better ways to teach our children and give parents an additional choice in education.

We have also made historic investments in our Historic Black Colleges and Universities, helping to correct decades of neglect. $10 million in financial aid originally allocated for undocumented students will be diverted to Virginia HBCUs under a budget amendment that narrowly passed the Senate with support from two Democratic lawmakers. Under the governor’s budget amendment, most of the budgeted financial aid will be reallocated to two HBCUs — Norfolk State and Virginia State University.

The budget also made permanent changes to the Code of Virginia that closes a loophole that would have allowed some of the worst killers and rapists to get out of prison early. The vote means that roughly 550 inmates of 3,200 set to be released July 1 will no longer be freed on that day.

The Hyde Amendment passed the House 51-45, but the Virginia Senate narrowly defeated the amendment that would have prohibited state Medicaid from covering abortions in cases of “incapacitating” physical or mental fetal deformities.

While the budget does provide more than $4 billion in tax relief, it does fall short in one major area — the price of fuel. House Republicans voted to suspend the gas tax for three months to give drivers a small bit of help, but Senate Democrats wouldn’t budge. In killing the Governor’s gas tax amendment, Democrats also ensured that the gas tax itself will spike by 8 or more percent in July.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.