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In Virginia, Democratic Leaders Pressed Pause On Budget Priorities Due to COVID-19

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This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed Virginia's most progressive budget in recent history. It included raising the minimum wage, free community college for in-demand fields, finally bringing K-12 funding above pre-recession levels, and new investments in affordable housing, offshore wind and dental benefits for Medicaid recipients.

Now lawmakers face a different fiscal picture. Although Virginia has fared better than many states, tax revenues have slowed and the future is uncertain. Unlike the federal government, Virginia and most states are constitutionally required to have a balanced budget.

So Democratic leaders in Virginia have agreed to press pause on more than $2 billion in new spending, much of which was set to take effect this summer. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam plans to gather lawmakers for a special session later this month to adjust the state's spending plan due to lost revenue, primarily from income and sales tax dips.

Mallory Noe-Payne covers people and policy for WVTF in Richmond, Va.

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Mallory Noe-Payne is a freelance reporter and producer based in Richmond, Virginia. Although she's a native Virginian, she's most recently worked for public radio in Boston. There, she helped produce stories about higher education, including a nationally-airing series on the German university system. In addition to working for WGBH in Boston, she's worked at WAMU in Washington D.C. She graduated from Virginia Tech with degrees in Journalism and Political Science.