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VIRGINIA

Virginia

State Recovery Act Website: http://www.stimulus.virginia.gov

Virginia's state Recovery Act website scored 35 out of 100 possible points (ranking 15th) on Good Jobs First's 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus. The score reflects the fact that the state included a breakdown of spending by broad and narrow program category, gave county dollar allocations, and created a centralized site with clear links. Contractor information: none.

Virginia scored same -35 out of 100 (ranking 29th)-on its disclosure of information specifically about highway projects funded by the Recovery Act.  The state's transportation data website includes county dollar allocations individually and all at once, descriptions of projects, project award amounts, and an indication that the information had been updated. Contractor information: none.

For detailed scoring information, see the Virginia appendix of Show Us the Stimulus.

Coordination & Oversight

The Governor’s Stimulus Working Group is headed by Wayne Turnage, Gov. Tim Kaine’s chief of staff since May 2007 and before that deputy chief of staff. The group is responsible for evaluating ARRA requirements in each policy area and sending project proposals to cabinet secretaries for review. It contains the following committees: health and human services; education; transportation; commerce and trade; natural resources; and public safety.

Policy Debates

Virginia became the first state in the country to appropriate funding from ARRA into the state budget with passage of an amended budget on February 28, 2009. The General Assembly integrated over $1.5 billion in ARRA funds. Key funding areas included the Medicaid program, education funding, and other core functions through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Recently, the governor and the Republican-run House of Delegates have been clashing over the issue of whether to accept the additional $125 million the state could receive for modernizing unemployment benefits. A coalition of Republican lawmakers and the business lobby have been urging the state to reject the money. They fear that when stimulus dollars run out in two years, the program expansion will remain and businesses will end up paying for it through higher unemployment insurance rates. In early April, the General Assembly voted through a mostly party-line vote of 46-53 to reject Gov. Kaine’s proposed amendment to expand the benefits. Since the vote, Democrats have become increasingly critical of the Republican-led House of Delegates for their refusal to accept these funds and are convinced that voters will agree when the time comes for the gubernatorial and House of Delegates elections in November 2009.

The stimulus is also a hot topic for the candidates running for governor. Democrat Brian Moran proposed a new state watchdog to guard Virginia's federal stimulus cash from waste and fraud. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob McDonnell, involved himself in a partisan fight within the General Assembly on whether to accept or reject the extra $125 million in unemployment benefits. While not having a vote in the decision, McDonnell defended his GOP colleagues and wrote a letter asking Congress to rewrite the rules so that it is clear that unemployment eligibility changes can be made in the future. The Department of Labor had already provided clarification when the General Assembly voted on the matter in April.

Other stimulus funding also remains on the table in Virginia. For example, the state has not yet announced plans to access additional funding through the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. Estimates are that Virginia could receive as much as $79 million over the next two years through that fund if the state undertakes new initiatives to improve the TANF program. Advocates have been arguing for new initiatives given Virginia’s low rate of TANF participation, especially among TANF-eligible children.

On June 17 the Washington Post noted that Virginia had just submitted its request for federal stimulus funds for transportation. It was the last of the 50 states to do so.

A paper by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on how ARRA is helping states deal with their fiscal crises uses Virginia as one of its case studies.

Last updated on: 15 October, 2009

Quick Facts

Population:
7,769,089

Median Household Income:
$59,562

Unemployment Rate:
6.5%

Poverty Rate:
9.9%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$4.6 billion

Resources

In May the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis issued Reinvesting in Virginia: What Does the federal Recovery Act hold for the Commonwealth? (online here). OtherARRA-related issue briefs from the Institute include:

  • Down, But Not Out: Virginia Needs to Modernize Its Unemployment Insurance System; online here
  • Poverty in Our Time: The Challenges and Opportunities of Fighting Poverty in Virginia (includes discussion of TANF); online here

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