Virginia’s secretary of finance says future uncertain


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Consider this: Virginia’s unemployment claims in the last week of March were more than 114,000 and that was up 67,827 from the week before.  

According to Virginia’s Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne Jr., we didn’t even get close to those numbers during the Great Recession of 2008.

“Anyone who tells you when this is going to end or how it’s going to end or what is going to happen is not being accurate,” Layne said. 

If Gov. Ralph Northam is holding a news conference, chances are Layne isn’t far away. He is Virginia’s chief financial officer.

“Our economist is telling us in this fiscal year, which ends June 30, we can expect a billion dollars less in revenue,” Layne said. 

It is that bad — and the General Assembly meets April 22 to consider Northam’s plan proposing no new spending except for necessities.

“Spend on those items absolutely necessary like things related to the public health crisis and what we are mandated to do… like Medicaid and education,” Layne added. 

Several accounting groups have complained to Layne that Virginia must extend the filing deadline for state taxes without penalties. That is likely to happen, according to Layne.

“It is done. No penalties until June 1, and we hope to waive interest when we get the General Assembly approval, which it must do in order to waive interest,”  he said.

Accounting groups want Virginia to do more like extend deadlines to July 15 without penalties to coincide with the new deadlines for federal returns with no penalties. However, when 10 On Your Side asked Layne whether that could be done, he said the Virginia Constitution won’t allow that because it is a balanced budget state and the fiscal year begins July 1.

“It can’t happen… It would require the governor to make significant economic cuts in a time we are in a public health crisis… the fiscal start of the year just won’t allow it,” Layne said. 

Layne also thinks coronavirus will change parts of Virginia forever, such as retail. 

“We see people going online and that means plenty of retailers won’t come back. It’s going to make them go immediately online… We are also going to see mass transit for instance, like I don’t think people are going to jump on crowded buses and subways right away like they have done in the past”, Layne said. 

Layne says we know this is a health crisis, but it is also a financial crisis.

How long it lasts is unknown, which makes the future very uncertain.  

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