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Copyright 2020 Greg Nash
Copyright 2020 Greg Nash

Commonwealth Discusses Revenue Surplus, Reserves, and Potential of Further Stimulus

John Putney

 

Pre-pandemic and pre-livestreaming committee meetings, General Assembly money committee meetings were standing room only affairs. With the advent of streaming full committee and subcommittee meetings, more government relations professionals are viewing at least some of those meetings online. Soon enough, those committee rooms will begin hosting meetings again and, when they do, I suspect folks like me will enjoy covering these meetings in person.

When the Secretary of Finance keynotes both House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee meetings, in-person attendance and online viewership increases. This is likely because it means Secretary Aubrey Layne will update the Commonwealth on the national and state economic outlook and Virginia’s revenue and budget situation. Invariably, these meetings also feature discussions on proposed and actual spending initiatives, which makes them relevant and meaningful to all corners of the state and to all sectors of our public and private sectors. For the last year or so, that also has meant that Secretary Layne would provide an additional briefing: an update on federal COVID relief packages.

 

And for the Commonwealth that has entailed multiple trillions in federal dollars.

 

On May 17, Secretary Layne spent well over an hour presenting on and taking questions from members on issues pertaining to:

 

  • Virginia’s revenue surplus (now at over $500M and likely to increase before the end of the fiscal year)
  • The Commonwealth’s two reserve funds (totaling a combined $2.1B)
  • The status of the national and state economies (increased economic growth but also concerns about inflation, increased debt, and an overheating economy) and others.

 

As is typically the case, the viewer or attendee also receives a welcomed dose of context and perspective, with Monday’s HAC message being one of (and I’m paraphrasing) given where the Commonwealth was in March of 2020, we are in remarkably positive and improved circumstances. Still concerns remain.

What else was discussed? The how, when, and the where associated with the spending of all of those sought after federal funds.  Originally believed to be destined for June, for myriad reasons the much-discussed Special Session now appears likely to occur in late July or early August.  Another emerging issue that requires resolution focuses on how those monies can be allocated, specifically discretionary versus non-discretionary spending.  The Northam Administration would like Legislative budget writers, in the interest of time, to allow them to appropriate non-discretionary funds without General Assembly approval, as was the case with allocating unemployment benefits.  Discretionary funds, rightly so, will require the involvement of the Virginia General Assembly.

 

For a detailed review and better understanding of Secretary Layne’s presentation, please visit the below links, the first of which is to his full presentation, which, starting on slide also 24, includes an overview of Virginia’s estimated share of more than $7.2B in federal relief funds.  For those interested in monitoring those funds and how they are allocated, I encourage reviewing Secretary Layne’s presentation.  For an even deeper understanding of the content discussed, interested parties should view the entire HAC meeting.  To do so, please click the second link below.  Secretary Layne was the first speaker, so one need not scroll to get to the relevant content.

 

  • House Appropriations Committee national and state economy and budget briefing from VA Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne (Power Point), click HERE
  • To view the entire 5-17-21 HAC meeting, which include presentations by Secretary Layne, Chief Workforce Advisor Megan Healy, Department of General Services Director Joe Damico, and VA Superintendent of Education James Lane, please click HERE

 

In a similar meeting, held on 5-18-21 and before the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee, Secretary Layne provided another overview of the U.S. and Virginia economies and the budget and revenue situation; however, what differentiates the two briefings is that, at the approximate one hour and forty-five minute mark, the experienced and very capable Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee staff provided a fairly high level but informative overview of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and its impact on Virginia. This 51-page document is a treasure trove of information on what the sixth federal stimulus bill entails. Directly below is a link to this presentation. I would encourage all parties interested in seeing the amount of federal money, where it is going, and how it can be used.

 

  • Senate Finance & Appropriations staff update on the ARPA overview and impact on Virginia (Power Point), click HERE
  • To view the entire 5-18-21 SFAC meeting, which include presentations from Secretary Layne, Chief Workforce Advisor Megan Healy, DGS Director Joe Damico, and a SFAC staff overview of the ARPA relative to Virginia, please click HERE
  • For an excellent recap of Secretary Layne’s presentation to the HAC committee, please consider accessing and reading the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s article. True to form, Mike Martz provides an excellent account. Click HERE for details
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