Published Online: September 20, 2004

Capitol Recap

Governor’s Tax Plan Gets GOP Backing

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The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.

Virginia

Virginia saw a major budget increase for K-12 education as Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, persuaded enough lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature to approve his tax reforms and spending increases for education.

The budget changes come after three financially difficult years for the state. Revenues shrank after declines in manufacturing were coupled with drops in tourism in the Washington area following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.

Virginia’s $58.2 billion spending plan for fiscal 2005 and 2006 includes a $758 million increase for schools for the biennium, bringing state school aid to $9.2 billion. Roughly $377 million of the K-12 hike will be raised through a quarter-cent sales-tax increase.

Gov. Mark Warner
Democrat
Senate:
16 Democrats
24 Republicans
House:
37 Democrats
61 Republicans
2 Independents
Enrollment:
1.2 million (K-12)

The legislature spent a record length of time on the budget—including nearly two months in special session. After a $328 million projected surplus emerged, Republicans questioned the need for higher taxes, but made no changes to their plan.

The budget includes additional money to provide more planning time for teachers, more pre-school slots, and remedial help for struggling students. The budget also restores substantial funding to various areas and rainy-day funds that were tapped to prevent other cuts in recent years.

No state money was set aside specifically for pay raises for teachers, but school divisions, or districts, can use the major budget increase to offer raises.

Lawmakers also approved $1 million to continue Gov. Warner’s pilot program that offers school districts help from the state in identifying ways to spend money more efficiently.

—Alan Richard

Vol. 23, Issue 44

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