March 25, 2020
Less than two weeks ago, I sent you an e-newsletter about the budget we had just passed. As chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, I was very proud of the priorities we had funded. We had balanced the budget (as the state constitution requires) while increasing teacher and state employee compensation, increased support for K-12 and higher education, made historic increases to early childhood programs. We made unprecedented investments in capital projects, including state parks and college facilities. Human services were augmented and we even added dental coverage for low income adults and increased pay for our underpaid personal care workers. Climate change challenges were being addressed. The list went on and on.
Today everything is uncertain. We do not know how dramatically our state revenues will fall. We do not yet know how much assistance the federal government will give our businesses, state and localities. Worse yet, we do not know how badly Virginians will suffer and how much help they will need from us.
As committee chair, I have instructed Finance and Appropriations staff to prepare lists of priorities and contingencies. I have also asked them to work closely with the Governor’s staff and House Appropriations so we can develop the best plan in a short timeframe. We are including everyone in this effort, regardless of party or region.
There is one positive aspect to our financial situation. We have close to $2 billion in reserve and rainy day funds. This will help us cushion the blow. I want to credit my predecessors for following the advice of rating agencies three years ago and greatly augmenting our reserves.
As we work our way through this calamity, I want you to know I am constantly thinking of you. Please follow medical advice. Stay safe end stay positive. We will get through this.
I also wanted to share opportunities to donate and help others in our community: