Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: August 23, 2023
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Christian Martinez,

Joint Money Committee Speech

As Prepared for Delivery 

Joint Money Committee Speech

August 23, 2023      

Accelerating Results and Lifting Up All Virginians 

Good morning, everyone.   

Chair Barker, Chairman Knight, Co-Chair Howell, and Chairwoman Robinson, thank you for inviting me to address this body of legislators on issues of the utmost importance to Virginians and our Commonwealth.   

Given that this is most likely the last formal opportunity to address many of you who are retiring, I just wanted to take a moment and honor your service.

The idea behind Virginia’s “Citizen Legislature” suggests it is a part-time job, but each of you knows it is a full-time commitment. I want to thank you for your dedicated service and commitment to our beloved Commonwealth of Virginia.   

It was on January 17, 2022, that I first stood before the General Assembly and asked that we come together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Virginians. 

I asked that we come together and deliver on a plan to unleash the full God-given potential of every man, woman and child across the Commonwealth in pursuit of their goals and aspirations. 

At that time, Virginia was in the bottom 3rd in the nation for job growth. Over 142,000 Virginians had dropped-out of our labor force. 

More Virginians were moving away from our Commonwealth than into it from the other 49 states – a trend that persisted for 9 straight years. 

Tax and fee burdens had climbed, job numbers had declined, and the murder rate hit a 20-year high. Student performance fell.  

And yet, in January of 2022, because of high taxes and high fees, state government was flush with cash.  

That profound disconnect...between families struggling with runaway prices at the gas pump or in the grocery aisle, a business owner not just worried they can’t make payroll... but worried they can’t reopen their doors...parents being told their child is proficient, when in reality they're falling further behind in school... all the while being told since government accounts were awash in resources, Virginia was doing well.

Bridging that gap is where our work began together……and this is where our work must continue.  

We began this journey to ensure Virginians keep more of their hard-earned money, jumpstart job growth, assure public safety, empower parents and restore excellence in education and yes, to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.    

I asked that along the way we recognize the progress we are making and accelerate -- do more and do it faster. 

That we accelerate not because we can, but because we must if we are to lift up every Virginian across the Commonwealth.  

And that we carry out the task with a spirit of unbridled eagerness knowing it is possible.  

We should all be proud of the work we’ve done – not as Republicans or Democrats – but as Virginians to deliver for Virginians.  

Over the course of 18 months, we have witnessed existing businesses expanding, new businesses arriving, record job growth, and a record labor force.  

We’re growing. 

Together, we passed the largest tax relief package in Virginia history.  

Together, we also passed the largest education budget in history, providing $3.2 billion in investment for our public schools – considering the recent JLARC report that noted prior administrations had underfunded education, this is something Republicans and Democrats should celebrate.  

Together, we made critical, transformative investments of $430 million in behavioral health and $400 million in law enforcement.  

If Virginians are in crisis, they should get the help they need, when they need it.  

And yes, we are paying teachers more, and we’re also paying the men and women of law enforcement more. 

The results speak for themselves.  

As of last week, we celebrated nearly 220,000 more Virginians working versus January 2022.  

We have the highest labor participation rate in over a decade, the highest employment since counting began 47 years ago.

Since then, we’re fourth in the nation for job growth. Virginia is on the move. 

Recent data suggests we’ve reversed the trend of out-migration. Existing Virginians are staying and new Virginians are coming! 

Our investment in site development and workforce development is working. New companies are choosing to move to Virginia and others are expanding their operations here. Since January of last year, we’ve welcomed 293 projects and over $58 billion in capital commitments, generating nearly 25,000 jobs over time as a result.  

And when it comes to public safety, we’re also making progress recruiting and retaining talented law enforcement officers. Since January of last year, we’ve reduced Virginia State Police vacancies by over 12%.  

But we still have significant work to do across all law enforcement agencies.  

And since the start of Operation Bold Blue Line, we’ve seized over 2,000 pounds of illegal narcotics, including 47 pounds of deadly fentanyl – enough to kill every Virginian multiple times over. 

As we work to not just make our communities safer, but also to enable a brighter future for our students, the “quiet heroes” -- our first responders, our healthcare workers and teachers are at the heart of these efforts.  

Virginia and the nation continue to see a longstanding teacher shortage but we took an important step to support them when last year they saw a 5% pay raise, with another 5% this school year.  

1,500 reading specialists and staff have received training as part of the Virginia Literacy Act.  

And we’ve also awarded over $765 million of the $1.25 billion in grants and loans in school construction so that kids across the Commonwealth can learn in increasingly modern classrooms.   

Recently, our first lab school was approved to start teaching classes this fall, with 22 more either having received, or applied for, grants. 

I am very encouraged by the energy at our community college system....expanding pathways to careers with credentials and degrees for all Virginians...especially for our high school students.  

And finally, we are making government work better for Virginians, and we are doing it for less.  

Thanks to the work of our Office of Transformation, our DMV has significantly cut wait times, in some cases by more than 30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, productivity at the Virginia Employment Commission has skyrocketed and slashed mountains of backlogs.  

We’re doing this at the Department of Education as well. We’ve already cleared a backlog of over 4,700 teacher licenses that were just sitting there, waiting. Now we process more than 200 a day – allowing much-needed, talented teachers to get in the classroom faster.  

At the Department of Environmental Quality, we’ve launched the Permitting and Evaluation Platform (PEEP) -- reducing average permit times by more than 40% … and there is more to go!  

We’re not just delivering better services to Virginians – we're also doing it for less money.  

We’ve identified hundreds of millions in projected annual savings by asking the simple question: are we purchasing at the best price and at the right quantity? 

We’ve consolidated the state’s fleet of vehicles. When we got here, over half of the more than 4,000 cars owned by the Commonwealth were underused.  

We’ve since sold over 800 of these, bringing in $8 million. 

It’s the same story with the state’s real estate holdings. Compared to national standards, we have over 30% excess space. 

We paused the $407 million construction of a new building in downtown Richmond because we don’t need it. 

Through the good work of our Chief Procurement Officer, we've already initiated actions that will save $20 million annually by Christmas that number will grow to $100 million, and by end of the fiscal year, we will have implemented actions to save taxpayers $200 million annually. 

Folks, this is common-sense and it is just the beginning. 

This culture of striving to improve, of carving out pockets of savings – large or small – empowers more investments to increase the effectiveness of government.  

Friends, I say all this with great enthusiasm not because we are serving the government better; rather, we are serving Virginians better.  

Serving as opposed to simply collecting their money.  

We see this as more and more Virginians and Americans are betting their future on Virginia’s future. 

This is a “both/and” moment, not an “either/or” moment. We can provide substantial tax relief and we can invest in law enforcement and we can invest in our schools, students and we can invest in behavioral health.  

We have the funds to do it.  

And when we reduce taxes, streamline regulations, restore excellence in schools, back the blue -- and guess what happens?  

We know what happens:  More people move to Virginia. Businesses stay. Businesses come. More people go to work.  

Tax receipts for the state go up. We can then reduce taxes again and invest in these critical priorities.  

This is how we fuel a truly virtuous, reinforcing cycle that makes Virginia competitive against our neighboring states. 

Virginia does well when Virginians are doing well – and all this notwithstanding headwinds pouring out of Washington with great bluster. Whether that is inflationary spending making gas or groceries more expensive...Or the response of the Federal Reserve to address inflation by raising rates, making it harder for families to buy a home.....or for businesses to expand.

Here in Virginia, our financial results have never been stronger…record reserves, a Triple A Bond rating, and billions in surplus. 

When we put the administration’s budget together last December, we projected available resources would be $3.6 billion higher than the level assumed in the 2022 Appropriation Act. 

Last fall, economists and our GACRE panel warned us of our expected economic slowdown, so we took a prudent approach and built into our assumptions a year-over-year decline in revenues of almost 8 percent. 

We continue to believe it’s prudent to incorporate a recessionary case as our base case for Fiscal Year 2024.  

However, Virginia outperformed and the recession that we had prepared for didn’t happen. Additional revenues of $1.5 billion were generated above the December projections. 

And that’s not all. With commonsense management practices in place, our government actually spent $1.6 billion less than the amount authorized, and yet we accomplished more. 

This unspent, yet appropriated $1.6 billion is on top of the $1.2 billion at the end of the Fiscal Year 2022.

The Commonwealth has substantial resources, and our balance sheet couldn’t be stronger. 

Our Rainy Day and Revenue Reserve Funds are expected to sit at a record $4.6 billion by the end of this fiscal year, far above the 15 percent cap provided by Virginia’s Code.  

This is our moment to soar.  

We must seize this opportunity to pursue the key priorities that are fueling our success to begin with and accelerate our efforts. 

To reduce the cost of living, we must provide substantial tax relief.  

To prepare our students for lives of unparalleled excellence, we must continue to raise the bar, fund the Literacy Act, support tax-driven scholarship funds and lab schools – which had record participation last year. 

And we specifically need to recognize that extended school closures caused significant learning loss...with alarming drops in math and reading levels, especially in 3rd through 8th grade. 

I know we all agree that this requires us to come together and deliver a rapid, and forceful response to equip our children, families and teachers with the tools they need to reverse this learning loss. 

When it comes to ensuring our streets and communities are safe, we must continue to invest in our law enforcement. 

When it comes to addressing our current behavioral health crisis, we must get Virginians the “Right Help, Right Now,” when they need it – otherwise, it translates into more violence, more self-harm. Everyone is touched by it. 

When it comes to being good stewards of our natural resources, we must continue to fund our progress towards our environmental priorities, including innovating for our energy future and preserving the Chesapeake Bay.  

And finally, this is a moment for us to drive efficiency and effectiveness in our state government. We must fully embrace a mindset of doing more for less, and the transformation process that enables it. 

The best part is we can pursue all these priorities with fiscal discipline for taxpayers – because it’s their money, not the government’s. 

This is a moment for us again to open the door and let commonsense values rush into the building, to further spur the engine of economic prosperity, to raise the ceiling and the floor when it comes to the quality of education in our schools.

If we continue to invest wisely, and drive policies that lift up Virginians, this will not come at the expense of our financials or resources. 

Virginians are talented people who are charting a path to a better future, with faith in God, devotion to family, and belief in the limitless possibilities of freedom.   

It is their ingenuity, aspiration and hard work that will assure this collective prosperity.  

Our only job is to empower their dreams and aspirations. 

If we want our current moment of growth to continue...if we want our businesses, students, and communities to thrive our course for this current budget is clear. 

So today, I end where I began. When I first spoke to the General Assembly in January of 2022, it was with the message that together, Republicans and Democrats can deliver a brighter future. 

We’ve achieved so much over the past 19 months. But we’re just getting started.  

If we act with confidence, the Commonwealth of Virginia will continue on a path towards unbounded prosperity...towards limitless opportunity, lifting up all Virginians. 

Together, I know we can make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.  

May God bless our Commonwealth. Thank you.  



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