RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam laid out his spending priorities to House and Senate Finance Committees Tuesday morning to kick off the state’s special session.

“This is a late-August tradition in Virginia, but this is no ordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, our economy, and our budget,” Governor Northam said.

Virginia ended the 2020 fiscal year on June 30th with a $234 million shortfall in general fund revenue collections, Northam said. While this is significant, Northam noted, it was less than projected.

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“Looking forward, we now project that we’ll have $2.7 billion less than we expected in general fund revenue for the coming biennium,” Northam said. “We feared worse. But this still requires serious and thoughtful budgeting and planning.”

Northam said that as the state continues to make budget decisions, lawmakers must keep in mind that they do not know what is going to happen with the COVID-19 vaccine or how long the pandemic will last.

“Decisions that we make today will affect everything that happens throughout the rest of the two–year budget cycle. And this matters because we don’t know how long the pandemic will go on,” Northam said.

Prior to the pandemic, the governor said his budget priorities included the expansion of early childhood education, free community college public schools, affordable housing and state employees.

Northam said these are still top of mind for him but the commonwealth will have to make sacrifices to deal with the pandemic

Northam’s budget will not reinstate spending that was unalloted. He said Virginia needs to preserve financial options.

“In the budget I present to you, I am choosing not to reinstate spending on my own top priorities. To be clear, I am doing this for one reason alone: To preserve our financial options so that we can make it through this pandemic,” the governor said.

Northam’s budget includes the following:

— $88 million to combat evictions/expand affordable housing
— $85 million to expand access to broadband/ high- speed internet
— Paid postage for mail-in voting
— $15 million for dam rehabilitation
— Additional funding for HBCUs

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