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RICHMOND – Millions of dollars for school resource officers. Security for threatened Jewish students on college campuses. Teacher retirement accounts. Gun violence prevention.

None of these crucial items were kept in the budget on Thursday, as Democrats voted to raise taxes by $1.5 billion on hard working Virginia families.

“Budgets are always a work in progress until the Governor signs them, and while this budget does include a lot of good priorities, many of the choices made by House Democrats today are disappointing to say the least,” said House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah. “Hard-working Virginia families can’t afford to pay $1.5 billion in higher taxes.”

Worse, the budget has serious problems that will come back to haunt Virginia in the near future, said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach.

“I have been to New York to talk to the three major bond rating agencies about the status of our AAA rating. They all told us they like the fact that Virginia does not overspend, and we have made extra payments into the Virginia Retirement System, along with using cash to pay for capital projects instead of debt,” he said, speaking on the floor.

“However, I fear this budget will not perpetuate that glowing endorsement for our state’s financial well being,” Knight added. “We need to keep it simple, and we need to spend less in the face of a declining economy. We need to continue to avoid taking on unnecessary debt.”

“I’m disappointed House Democrats voted against two public safety programs that previously earned bipartisan support: grants for school resource officers and Project Ceasefire,” said House Republican Caucus Chair Amanda Batten, R-James City County. “These are common sense policies, and it is unfortunate that Democrats refuse to work across the aisle to help Virginians.”

“For all the good things in the budget, I’m disappointed that Democrats chose to raise taxes on hard working families rather than follow the Republican practice of making life more affordable for them,” added House Republican Whip Michael Webert, R-Fauquier.

Republicans objected to a number of changes to the budget, including a change of policy that will let hundreds of violent offenders out of jail early.

“People who commit armed robbery with a firearm shouldn’t get a discount on their sentence,” Leader Gilbert said. “When this legislation passed initially, it was understood that it wouldn’t apply to violent criminals. Democrats have decided that it should.”

Democrats also voted to remove millions in funding set aside by the Governor for college campus security projects – including ensuring that Jewish students are kept safe after the October 7 attack on Israel and subsequent antisemitic attacks on many campuses.

“There are frequent marches down the streets of Richmond calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. And yet, this budget calls for the elimination of nearly $2 million for security designed to protect these students at VCU,” said Del. Chris Obenshain, R-Montgomery.

“It is the same at other schools, over $1.5 million for security at JMU eliminated, $2 million at UVA, and nearly $3 million at Virginia Tech. These funds wouldn’t just be used to provide security to students based on their ethnicity and faith, they would be used to provide security to all students,” he said.

Republicans also objected to the defunding of Governor Youngkin’s “Diploma Plus” program, which would have allowed Virginia high school students to graduate with an additional credential that would allow them to enter the workforce without incurring any student debt.

“The program— as funded in the governor’s introduced budget — would have helped up to 10,000 students with grants to get credentialed in high demand industries,” said Del. Mike Cherry, R-Colonial Heights. “I mentioned earlier the most marginalized students being beneficiaries of this program and at least 25 percent of the introduced appropriation would be used for students that receive free and reduced lunch or are at less than 300 percent of federal poverty standards.”

“These are the students least likely to be able to afford college or a credential program and are supposed to be the students that need our help the most and we are shutting them out,” Cherry said.

Other significant cuts include:

  • Cuts of $10 million for the development of comprehensive psychiatric programs
  • Cuts $1 million from a proposed cut youth mental health services database
  • Cuts $200,000 set aside to fund peer to peer mentoring
  • Cuts of $8 million for additional behavioral crisis services
  • Cuts of $18 million for police recruitment and wellness programs
  • Cuts of $1 million set aside for a Healthcare Workforce Training System in Hampton Roads
  • Cuts of $25 million from the Resilient Virginia Revolving Loan Fund
  • Cuts of $17 million from Project Ceasefire
  • Cuts of $11 million from SRO grants

Both the House and Senate will vote to put their competing budgets into conference in the coming days, setting the stage for final negotiations and a hopeful final vote on or before March 9th, when the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn.