Editor’s Note: Virginia lawmakers convened a special legislative session August 18 to consider criminal justice reform and changes to state spending plans due to the impact of the coronavirus on the state’s economy. Late last week, the Virginia House and Senate approved separate versions of a new state budget for the two-year period that began this July 1ST.
The following information is drawn largely from an update provided by Dr. Craig Herndon, senior vice chancellor for administration, finance and technology:
It’s important to remember the General Assembly’s special session is not over. But late last week a key milestone in the state budget process was reached when the House of Delegates and State Senate approved their respective versions of the two-year state spending plan.
In the coming days, legislative budget negotiators will seek a consensus, and that agreement may have some significant implications for our operations.
But for now, we can offer at least a preliminary overview of those budgets – with a particular focus on higher education and VCCS.
• both budgets maintain the current level of ongoing general funding for VCCS, as was the case in the Governor’s introduced budget
• both budgets reduces next year’s planned increase in health insurance premiums by half to 3.35% (as opposed to scheduled 6.7% increase)
• plans to offer free access to community college for low-to-moderate income families (the governor’s “G3” proposal) were shelved due to the economic downturn, as were plans for state employee pay raises next fiscal year
• predicated on the state meeting certain revenue targets, both budgets include bonuses for state employees in the second year of the biennium (including faculty and staff of VCCS)
• both budgets provide access to additional federal CARES Act funding to address expenses for things like personal protective equipment, telework, and cleaning costs
o the House version includes a defined amount of $8.7M for the VCCS
o the Senate version includes a pot of money for all institutions of higher education; distribution of funds would be advised by a joint committee of the House and Senate
• the House budget includes an additional $15M, in one-time funding in the current fiscal year, for VCCS to support operational and financial needs
• the House budget includes an additional $2M for the VCCS to support FastForward programs
Senior VCCS leadership and college presidents are advocating with budget conferees to promote funding that will most benefit our students and institutions. Considering that a formal deadline for the special legislative session was not defined, it’s impossible to predict right now when the budget process will be finalized.