The State Capitol. Photo by Markus Schmidt.

The process of negotiating the differences between the House and Senate budgets now falls to 14 legislators named Wednesday as budget conferees.

Those legislators include two from this part of the state, possibly three depending on how you define the region.

The six House conferees include Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt County.

The eight Senate conferees include Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford County, and Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County, who recently announced that he’s thinking about moving into a newly-drawn district that runs from Staunton and Waynesboro south to Roanoke County and Craig County.

The other five House conferees are Robert Bloxom, R-Accomack County; Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight County; Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach; Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax County, and Luke Torian, D-Prince William County.

The other Senate conferees are George Barker, D-Fairfax County; Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County; Mamie Locke, D-Hampton; Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth; Thomas Norment, R-James City County, and Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County.

The legislature is set to adjourn on Saturday, March 12. Typically, the budget is one of the last things to get approved.

Among the items they will need to work out is how much money is allocated for school construction and how that funding is structured. Other items of regional interest include:

  • A proposed Senate appropriation of $20 million to pay off the bonds on the Central Virginia Training Center site in Amherst County. The House includes no funds for that.
  • A proposed House appropriation of $11.4 million in flood relief for the Buchanan County community of Hurley, the site of a devastating flood in August that destroyed dozens of homes. The Federal Emergency Management Administration has twice rejected requests for disaster aid for Hurley. The Senate includes no money for Hurley.
  • A proposed House appropriation of $1 million to study using Catawba Hospital in Roanoke County for substance abuse treatment. The Senate includes no money for that. The House earlier passed 99-0 a bill from Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, authorizing such a study; the Senate has not yet acted on tht bill.
  • A proposed House appropriation of $5 million for automotive research in the New River Valley. The Senate includes no money for that.
  • A proposed Senate appropriation of $500,000 to determine how much waste coal is in Southwest Virginia and what could be done with the sites. The House includes no money for that.
  • A proposed Senate appropriation of $200,000 to study the possibility of building inland ports in the Lynchburg and/or Bristol areas. The House includes no money for that.
  • The two budgets are also far apart on additional funding for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. The House proposes $11.5 million, some of which would be used to create two new majors, in data analytics and hospitality management. The Senate version cuts that to $1.9 million, which school officials say it not sufficient to launch those two new programs.

* * *

Youngkin signs bill for Tech bonds

Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law a measure that authorizes $45.6 million in bonds for Virginia Tech to construct a new building for the  Myers-Lawson School of Construction. Tech broke ground on the $85 million Hitt Hall last month. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2024.

Besides housing the School of construction, Hitt Hall will also add dining capacity and provide general assignment academic classroom and collaboration space.

The building is named in recognition of a lead gift by the Hitt family, which founded one of the nation’s largest construction firms, HITT Contracting.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, had earlier passed the House 95-0 and the Senate 40-0.