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Governor Northam proposes budget with unprecedented investments in working Virginians

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On December 16, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam proposed his biennial budget for 2022-2024. The proposed budget is a reflection of Governor Northam’s historic progressive leadership as the most economically successful governor in Virginia’s history. In the past four years, Virginia has generated record economic growth, with $80 billion in capital investment, and created more than 100 thousand new jobs. Under Governor Northam, Virginia generated a $2.6 billion surplus—the largest in the Commonwealth’s history.

This record economic growth and fiscal responsibility have allowed Governor Northam to build on the priorities of his last four budgets: education, equity, and investments in working Virginians.

The Governor’s proposed budget sets the incoming administration up for success in virtually every facet of state government: education, the environment, broadband, behavioral health, public safety, and economic development. Governor Northam noted that Virginia is stronger and more forward-looking as a result of the last four years—and his budget is a roadmap to continue this success.

“Over these four years, we have steered this state in a prudent manner, invested wisely for our long-term needs, and created more opportunities for our communities and our people to thrive,” said Governor Northam. “I am confident that this state is stronger and more forward-looking than it was when I took office nearly four years ago. This budget is a roadmap to continue Virginia’s success.”


The Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below and the key highlights of the Governor’s budget amendments can be found here.

Good morning. Chairman Torian, Chairwoman Howell, Chairwoman Watts, Speaker
Filler-Corn, members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

I would like to recognize Attorney General Mark Herring, my wife Pam, and members of our Cabinet and staff.

And I want to welcome Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

I invited the incoming administration today because once the campaigns are over, we all should work together to help Virginia succeed. I want to thank our Department of Elections, all of our local registrars, and the thousands of volunteers who all work to make our elections run smoothly.

We had a nearly-flawless election of Governor-elect Youngkin this year, just as we did last year when Virginia voted for President Joe Biden. Our elections are always well-run, they’re free and fair, and they’re transparent. This is a hallmark of our democracy, and I am proud of all Virginians whose efforts help ensure that our elections go well.

We saw record turnout last month—and that’s a direct result of our work to make it easier to vote in the Commonwealth.

So Governor-elect, welcome. I want you and your administration to be successful, because if you are, Virginia will continue to be successful.

It’s good to be gathered here together today. I’m glad that I can deliver my last budget speech to you all in person.

When we first met here, I was not quite a year into my term. Back then, a four-year term seemed like a long time.

But those years have gone by very fast. And today I present to you my last budget. I’m biased, but I also think it’s our best one yet.

That’s because Virginia’s economy is doing very well. State revenues are at record levels. And we are at a unique moment when we have the funding to catch up on long-delayed investments, while also putting money back into the pockets of the hardest working Virginians.

We need to be clear about how this has happened. It is because, over these four years, we have consistently taken a prudent, cautious approach to budgeting.

We have strengthened our balance sheet to keep our finances stable. We’ve made
targeted long-term investments to help Virginia grow. And we’ve made choices that ensure more opportunities for more Virginians.

In 2018 I spoke to you about strengthening our balance sheet, making historic investments, positioning Virginia for potential future downturns, and targeted tax relief.

I am glad to see that despite everything that has happened over these four years, our priorities really haven’t changed.

We still want to take care of our neighbors. We still want to make sure Virginia has money put away for a rainy day.

We still want to strengthen this Commonwealth in every way possible, by making investments that will help us in the long run. We still want to do the most good possible with the resources we have. We have kept the promises we made four years ago.

When I presented our budget in 2018, I told you our economy was headed in the right direction.

And while we’ve had some ups and downs—particularly in the early months of the pandemic—I can confidently say that our economy today is the strongest we’ve seen in a very long time.

We ended the last fiscal year with the largest surplus in the Commonwealth’s history.

And while we’ve benefitted from federal pandemic funding, please don’t fall into the trap of believing that’s the reason for the surplus. Pandemic funding is one-time—revenues are ongoing. And those booming revenues show us that the things we’ve been doing these four years are working.

We’ve made targeted investments for the future, helped people get through the pandemic, and put money aside as a buffer for the future. This is possible because of strong, steady fiscal stewardship.

We have built a strong Commonwealth that works for more Virginians than ever before.

The budget I propose to you today will leave a roadmap to continue the strong economic success that we are seeing. We will keep making the investments that Virginia needs, and we will keep putting resources into supporting Virginians who need it.

First, we have built this budget as we have every budget—with Virginia’s long-term fiscal stability in mind.

When I started this job, Virginia was on a negative credit watch. My goal was to get our credit back on the positive side of the ledger and to set aside the equivalent of 8 percent of our budget in reserves. That goal would have meant we had more in reserves than any previous governor, of either party.

Well, we did that, and much more. I’m happy to say that our AAA rating is safe and sound, and this budget puts $1.1 billion in our Revenue Stabilization Fund. We’ve also added a voluntary deposit, another $564 million. Because when you’re doing well, the first thing any financial advisor will tell you to do is put money in the bank.

Altogether, this brings our reserves to more than $3.8 billion. That’s 16.8 percent, more than double the 8 percent I set as a goal four years ago. I am proud that even as we weathered the worst pandemic in our lifetime, we’ve rebuilt our reserves so that Virginia is prepared against future downturns.

That financial advisor would also tell you that when you have a surplus in cash, it makes sense to pay down some bills. So this budget sets aside nearly $1 billion for the Virginia Retirement System. This will reduce unfunded liabilities, making sure we can meet our retirement obligations for thousands of state employees, folks like social workers, and road crews.

And it also commits $42.5 million each year for the payments we expect to make under our deal with Amazon—payments that are contingent on them meeting their promises on investments and job creation.

And, finally, the financial advisor would tell us that if we want to make long-needed renovations to the house, it makes more sense to use cash than credit. So we’re budgeting $2 billion for capital projects, including maintenance needs in state government and higher education buildings. And we’ve also got to protect our house—so this budget includes over $60 million for cybersecurity upgrades across state government.

All of these actions mean that Virginia will have more tools in the toolbox next time there’s an economic downturn—because we planned ahead today. That means our historic investments won’t disappear when the next downturn comes.

Strong revenue years, like this one, are the right time to make strategic, long-term investments. That’s true whether the investment is in asphalt and concrete, or the people who truly make up this state government.

And we want to invest in people.

That’s why our budget includes pay raises for the people who make public services run.

For teachers, we’re proposing a 10 percent raise—five percent in each of the next two years. With local matching funds, Virginia teacher pay will finally meet the national
average—and that’s good news.

This is the right way to say thank you to our teachers for all they do every day—especially for all they have done during this long pandemic.

I am proud that every budget I proposed as governor included a pay boost for teachers—including the largest single-year raise in 15 years, in 2018. There is power in every child—teachers give a child the tools to unlock that power. They go above and beyond every day, and these raises are one way to show our gratitude.

I’m also proposing pay raises for law enforcement officers and corrections officers. For years they have faced what we call “pay compression”—when we raise starting salaries, it means junior officers start earning almost as much as senior officers. The structure we’ve proposed raises both starting salaries and those of officers with more experience. Law enforcement is not an easy job—officers put themselves at risk every day, and they deserve to be better compensated for it.

And finally, I’m proposing a 10 percent pay raise for all state employees—five percent in each of the next two budget years. Our state workforce is what makes the government run. They are the service in public service. None of the services we all rely on – from fixing roads to keeping state parks open to the public health services we’ve needed so much these past 20 months—none of that would happen without state employees, and this is a way to thank them for their hard work.

The pandemic affected many state services—and in some cases, put a spotlight on longstanding problems.

It put additional strain on our already-challenged behavioral health system, as our state and community systems—and the people who provide those services—struggled to provide care during the pandemic.

In July, I committed to using millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan to alleviate pressure in state hospitals, boost community services, and provide greater support for substance abuse treatment and prevention efforts.

We also put ARPA funding toward staff bonuses, and we committed to staff salary raises to better compensate the people who do this tough job.

Today, I’m announcing this budget includes $560 million to address our behavioral health challenges, on a variety of fronts.

We’re proposing $164 million to give pay raises to direct care staff in our state hospitals and training centers, along with discharge assistance.

We’ll also provide $263 million for community-based services. This includes fully funding STEP VA services at our community services boards, enhancing crisis services, and expanding permanent supportive housing.

I’m budgeting $75 million for new behavioral health care standards in jails, and to increase the number of counselors in the Department of Corrections.

And we’ll provide $33 million to expand access to community-based addiction treatment—something that we need now more than ever, unfortunately.

We’ll also boost services for developmental disabilities, with a historic $675 million to strengthen community-based services and allow more people to be eligible for Medicaid waiver services. This includes revising rates to providers for the first time since 2016 and adding 1,200 new waiver slots for community services.

Every state is facing the long-term challenge of behavioral health, and how to best provide treatment. These issues, especially in our state hospitals, are challenging and have been building for a long time. This funding package will help ease the strains on the system while compensating our hardworking staff, and providing additional community support for the patients who need and deserve help and treatment.

We are unfortunately living at a time when a variety of health issues are pressing enough to be considered public health emergencies.

One of those is the persistent crisis of gun violence in our communities.

Every year, we lose more than a thousand Virginians to gun violence. That’s more than three Virginians every day, in communities across the Commonwealth.

Whether those deaths are homicides, suicides, or accidents, every one of them is a tragedy. Every one of them is a family that will never be the same.

I am proud to have passed comprehensive gun safety measures in 2020. But there are still important gaps in our knowledge about the problem, and how to prevent it.

That’s why my budget provides $27 million to establish and staff the Virginia Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention.

This center will collect and report data on firearm violence in all its forms. It will provide resources and support to localities and community-based organizations that are addressing firearm violence, and it will coordinate state and local responses to such violence. The center will collaborate across both public health and public safety state agencies, so we can address this crisis in a data-driven way.

Our revenues allow us to make investments we’ve needed for a long time. And one problem that has festered in Virginia for decades is the issue of crumbling schools—schools with leaky roofs and ceilings, and antiquated classrooms. It’s hard for children to learn when the school itself is distracting.

Many school divisions have old schools, and not enough money to build new ones. But school construction has traditionally been a local responsibility, not a state one.

While I understand the reasons for that, I believe that when we have the means to help, we should.

So my budget includes $500 million to help localities construct or renovate school buildings. This isn’t the first time we’ve proposed school construction loans – in fact, we proposed it through the Literary Fund in 2018. But this is the most we’ve ever proposed to help ensure students have a healthy and safe learning environment.

Overall, we’re proposing more than $2.3 billion in direct aid for education.

We’ll also increase support for at-risk students by more than $268 million. In 2019, we proposed investing $140 million to support high-poverty school divisions—the most we had ever been able to give to support at-risk students.

This investment nearly doubles that, helping schools offer additional support to students who need it.

Every child, no matter who they are or where they live, should get a world-class education in Virginia.

And that education should start as young as possible. Early education has been a priority of mine, and of the First Lady’s, throughout my term in office. This budget expands access to the Virginia Preschool Initiative for three-year-olds and increases the Child Care Development Fund by more than $73 million each year.

It also expands the early reading initiative, investing more than $77 million over the two years. I want to thank Pam and all the dedicated people across government and around Virginia who have worked to make early learning more available and accessible to all of our children.

We’re also making important investments in safe, affordable housing. We’ve increased our support for the Housing Trust Fund in past budgets, and we’re able to do it again. I am proposing $190 million over the two years to create more housing that is safe and stable, and that people can afford.

When I came into office, we were putting just $11 million in the Housing Trust Fund. Our administration has made historic investments—$145 million so far. The importance of affordable housing, as well as supportive housing, has been even more evident during this pandemic.

You can’t tell people they’re safer staying home if they don’t have a home to stay in. That’s why these housing investments are so important, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to increase this funding during my term.

One of the most important investments we have been able to make is in broadband coverage.

Broadband is to today’s economy what electricity was generations ago. It is quite simply a necessary service for students to connect to education, businesses to connect to the wider world, and citizens to connect to work. It helps make economic opportunity more equitable.

But when I came into office, we were spending $4 million a year on connecting the thousands of Virginians that still lacked broadband access.

We bumped that up to $50 million a year. And earlier this year, we made the decision to put $700 million in federal pandemic funding into broadband. When we leverage local and private funding, Virginia is deploying $2 billion into broadband and high-speed internet.

Because of this decision, earlier this week we were able to award grant projects to dozens of communities—projects that will close 90 percent of the digital divide. We’re on track to have universal broadband on its way to every community by 2024—far faster than expected, and faster than most other states.

That funding is built into the base of this budget, and it’s vital to Virginia’s economic health that we keep this project moving forward. This is an infrastructure investment that will help Virginians for years to come.

Last week, I announced additional funding for our state parks and multi-use trail systems.

We’re also making investments in other environmental priorities—especially those that help ensure clean water and protect land for future generations.

I am proud to say that with this budget, we have put $1 billion toward our efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

That is more than any other governor has ever been able to invest in the Bay. As someone who grew up with the Bay as my backyard, this is personal to me—I want to ensure that my grandchildren, and your grandchildren, can enjoy beautiful, clean water the same way I did.

This money will go to a variety of programs that make our water cleaner—reducing nutrient runoff, conserving forest and farmland, fully funding the BMP cost-share, and helping localities update old sewer systems.

It will help us meet our statewide goals for Bay cleanup by 2025. We must meet those
obligations. The Bay touches so many states that cleaning it up is a group project, and we do not want Virginia to be the state that doesn’t carry its share.

As part of this effort, we’re also providing funding for the cities of Richmond, Lynchburg, and Alexandria, to improve their wastewater systems, through what we call combined sewer overflow projects. Their CSO projects will deliver cleaner water for everyone.

That’s why we’re using federal ARPA dollars for those projects. When we announced how we’d use that funding earlier this year, we purposely set some aside for other needs. This is an excellent way to use those resources to solve a decades-old health problem.

We also are taking steps to protect land and cultural sites that are important to Virginia’s tribal nations, Black Virginians, and other Virginians of color.

As we strive to tell a fuller and more inclusive story of Virginia, it’s important to preserve and protect physical places and spaces that represent the history of all Virginians.

We’ll set aside $12 million to help Virginia’s tribal nations conserve and expand their tribal lands for future generations—something we’ve already started on, with actions in recent years to protect land for the Chickahominy and Mattaponi tribes. We’ve also budgeted $10 million to preserve historic sites related to Black and indigenous Virginians.

Clean air and water are important legacies to leave for future generations. And it’s important to prepare our Commonwealth for the climate changes that are having an impact now.

I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to make this state more resilient. And the country is once again turning to Virginia for leadership. In fact, President Biden has nominated Admiral Ann Phillips, our special assistant for coastal adaptation, to serve as the next U.S. Maritime Administrator. Admiral Phillips is in the midst of her confirmation hearing as we speak. I know she will serve the United States as well as she served our Commonwealth.

I am incredibly proud that during my term, we have brought in a record $80 billion in economic investment, creating more than 100,000 new jobs. And CNBC has named Virginia the best state for business three years running—proof that when you treat people right, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for business.

CNBC uses more than 70 different metrics to score that ranking, about half of which touch on the business and tax climate. Both Republican and Democratic governors compete for this ranking—and we’re the only state to get it in successive years. For comparison, we’re in company with states like Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina—not exactly liberal hotbeds.

I want to thank the Commerce and Trade team, everyone at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and our local economic development officials, all of whom work hard to showcase all that Virginia can offer to companies.

And I thank the MEI team, which includes several of you legislators. We’ve brought thoughtful projects to you, and we’ve been able to help them succeed.

But we can do more—specifically to attract large manufacturing projects and others who need large sites prepared and ready to go. We’ve been losing projects, along with their jobs and capital investments, that are looking for this specific kind of site.

So I’m proposing $150 million to address this issue. The majority, $100 million, will establish a mega-site development fund, which will prepare our largest sites for future mega projects. These are the kinds of projects that represent thousands of potential jobs, and billions in capital investment.

The remaining $50 million will be used for midsized sites that are priorities for our economic development programs around the Commonwealth. Together, this investment will make our communities as competitive as possible, and help ensure that every region of Virginia can participate in this economic growth.

Our strong economic development track record, and being the best state for business, aren’t things that happen in a vacuum.

They happen because we have put the pieces in place to make them happen. Our
inclusive, commonsense policies have encouraged business investment. Being named the best state for business is a testament to our workforce, our education system, our commitment to diversity, and our strong business climate. And it shows that when you treat people right, good things happen.

Because of this investment, Mr. Youngkin, you will one day find yourself in a rural community to cut the ribbon on a mega-site during your term.

And because of this, I also expect to see Virginia as the best state for business for the fourth year in a row.

We got good marks with CNBC for our education system, including our world-class colleges and universities. These days, if you want to get a good job and get ahead, you need additional skills training or education beyond a high school diploma. I’m proud that in Virginia, we have everything from training focused on skills, to outstanding advanced degree programs.

But we can’t rest on our laurels in higher education.

Last week, I announced additional funding for our historically black colleges and universities. They’ve long been underfunded, which is why we have increased funding for them in every budget I have proposed.

We have budgeted support for capital improvements, and for student access.

Our schools are not serving their purpose if students can’t afford to go there—especially the first-generation students, for whom college can make a huge difference.

My budget adds $40 million over two years for Norfolk State University and Virginia State University for affordable access.

We also include $20 million over two years to help support scholarships at Virginia Union, and at Hampton University.

And we’ve budgeted for capital improvements, student support, and other needs—$297 million altogether. With these investments, we’ll have put half a billion dollars into HBCUs during my term, an increase of 87 percent.

We also know that student access is an issue at every school, public and private, HBCU or not.

That’s why we’re increasing tuition assistance for students in other ways. This budget provides $150 million to increase undergraduate financial assistance at our schools and $10 million to increase graduate financial aid. We’re providing $97 million for affordable access programs.

And we’re raising the level of Tuition Assistance Grants to students at private colleges and universities to $5,000 per student over the next two years.

That means that over my term, we’ll have increased TAG by 50 percent.

This year, roughly 23,000 Virginia students are being helped by the TAG program.

That’s no small number of students who might have been able to get an education because of this assistance.

Our private colleges do an outstanding job of helping students who might not have thought they could afford a private college—or afford to go to college at all.

In fact, here is a remarkable statistic about Virginia’s private colleges—of our student body attending Virginia’s private colleges, more than 44 percent of the student body is eligible for Pell grants, with many of our colleges exceeding 55 percent.

It takes a village, as they say, and these colleges are committed to access to higher education for all, and I thank them.

Not every student wants or needs a four-year degree to get a good job. There are many high-paying jobs that don’t require four years of school, but they do require training programs

We have excellent community colleges.

When I ran for governor, I campaigned on an idea to make community college tuition-free for low and moderate-income students, if they were getting training in high-need areas.

Last year we were finally able to keep that promise and fund the G3 program. It covers the cost of school for qualifying students—and it helps pay for other needs, like transportation and child care, that can prevent someone from getting the education they need.

This budget puts another $38 million into G3. It is a critical program to help Virginians get the training they need for the jobs they want.

We’ll also put more than $11 million into UVA-Wise to help expand programs, particularly those focused on economic development. UVA-Wise is doing great things in Southwest Virginia to help the region’s economy grow and diversify.

And at my own alma mater, VMI, we’ll provide nearly $12 million to implement the One Corps, One VMI steps to a more inclusive and supportive campus.

Our strong economy is making a lot of these budget investments possible. But it’s important to remember that these past two years have not treated everyone the
same.

If you’re a white-collar professional, your work probably moved online, and you made it through the pandemic pretty well.

But workers whose jobs require close contact have had a rougher time. Some jobs simply can’t move online—restaurant workers, teachers, law enforcement, home care
attendants, and many, many others.

Many of these folks are still struggling.

And for years, we’ve seen the gap between the wealthiest Americans, and the least wealthy ones, widen.

In 2017, when I ran for governor, I campaigned on a promise to reduce taxes for the Virginians who need it most.

And one of the tax cuts I proposed in 2017 was that we eliminate the sales tax on groceries.

]In Virginia, we’ve applied the sales tax to groceries since 1966—the year the Commonwealth first established a sales tax.

Since that time, Virginia has reduced the state portion to 1.5 percent—plus a one percent local sales tax.

We’ve gone from being on a credit watch when I took office, to having a record surplus.

So the time has come. I am sending you a budget that will finally eliminate the 1.5 percent state sales tax on groceries.

This will help working families in every corner of Virginia and keep a promise I made on the campaign trail.

In 2018, I also proposed giving working families a tax cut. The federal government had made tax changes to help wealthy people, but it did little for everyone else. I wanted to make sure everyday Virginians benefitted too, so we proposed making Virginia’s earned income tax credit refundable.

This is the right thing to do, and it’s a policy that was first created by President Richard Nixon.

My budget makes up to 15 percent of the earned income tax credit refundable for eligible families, which will give a tax break to working families who need it the most.

And just like we did in 2019, we’re going to offer one-time tax rebates to Virginians—$250 for individuals, $500 for married couples. We did this in 2019 because the revenues were good. This year, revenues are great. We want to offer some help to Virginians who could most use it.

I’m also proposing to finally eliminate the accelerated sales tax, a budgeting move that required retailers to pre-pay a portion of their sales tax.

Now, let’s be straight with each other. We know that Virginia is going to cut taxes in 2022. I want to make sure that happens in the right way. And what I mean by that is that tax relief needs to be focused on those who need it most—workers who have lower-incomes, workers who have struggled in this pandemic. Workers who need it, not just those who want it.

My plan focuses on tax relief in the right way, helping keep a few more dollars in the pockets of working families.

When we met four years ago, we could not have predicted the biggest challenge looming ahead—the biggest, I think, that any of us have ever faced. The covid-19 pandemic.

It has touched every facet of our lives. And it has made almost everything more difficult.

But a year ago, we had the first ray of hope. The first vaccines were being authorized by the FDA. And by the end of December 2020, shots were going into arms.

Now, a year later, 87 percent of our adult population has had at least one shot. Virginia has been in or near the top ten states for vaccination rates—doing better than many other large states and all of our southern neighbors. Vaccines, paired with masking and people continuing to be cautious, have helped keep our covid numbers per capita among the nation’s lowest.

I am incredibly proud of how we have handled Covid – following the science, and always taking actions based on protecting Virginians’ health and safety.

But unfortunately, people are still dying—more than 15,000 Virginians have died of covid. Every day, I get an email with the previous day’s numbers. Consistently, somewhere between 20 and 40 Virginians die every day from this virus. Many Virginians have lost a loved one. In the state Senate, we lost one of our own.

Now, as the omicron variant spreads, we cannot say with certainty what we face next, from a health perspective or an economic one.

We have been grateful for federal funding over the past two years that has helped us respond to this pandemic on many different fronts.

That’s why this budget sets aside $424 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, to address future impacts of the pandemic.

I hope that as Virginia continues to fight this virus, the same focus on science and health will continue to drive decisions. And if anyone who is listening has not been vaccinated yet—please, get the shot. It will save your life.

Four years, as I said, only seems long when you’re looking ahead—not when you’re looking back.

I am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished in that time.

When I stood here at the end of 2018, we had already worked together for a major victory—expanding Medicaid. While we couldn’t know it back then, that decision was critically important when this pandemic hit. That decision means more than 600,000 Virginians have access to health care – access they did not have in 2018. Imagine if those 600,000 people had gone through the pandemic with no health coverage. The expansion was a good thing to do, and it has made Virginians healthier.

In 2018, we were on a negative credit watch, and I promised to get us back to a more positive footing and shore up our reserve funds.

Now we have kept that promise, and we have record amounts in our reserve funds—ensuring that Virginia is in a very good position for the next economic downturn.

Keeping that promise was a good thing to do.

In December 2018 we had just announced that Amazon would bring its HQ2 project to Virginia, bringing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact. Every new job means another Virginian who can provide for their family.

Now, we have broken records for economic investment—$80 billion dollars invested in this state, four times any previous governor, creating more than 100,000 jobs. Every job created is a good thing to do.

In 2018, I said we needed to cut regressive taxes that take more out of a small paycheck than they do a large one. Today I have again proposed tax cuts and tax refunds that will help working families the most. Keeping that promise is a good thing to do.

We have accomplished the things I set out to accomplish—steering this state in a prudent manner, investing wisely for our long-term needs, and creating more opportunities for our communities and our people to thrive.

I am confident that this state is stronger and more forward-looking than it was when I took office nearly four years ago—because of the work you and our administration have done together.

With this budget, I leave you with a roadmap to continue Virginia’s success. And I am leaving you with my friendship, and my best wishes. I am confident that you will continue to steer this ship in a steady, forward direction—in a way that is open and welcoming to all, treats people right, and works to build a brighter future for every Virginian.

Thank you, and have a safe and happy holiday season.

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Governor Glenn Youngkin declares State of Emergency in advance of Hurricane Ian

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Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a State of Emergency in advance of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to impact portions of Virginia starting on Friday, September 30, 2022.

“Hurricane Ian is a large, powerful storm, and current predictions indicate that it may impact parts of Virginia later this week into early next week,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We want to ensure that our communities have the resources to respond to and recover from any potential effects from the storm. While we recognize that the storm track is still uncertain, I nevertheless encourage all Virginians and visitors to make a plan, have supplies on hand, and follow official sources for the latest forecast information and guidance. Suzanne and I will pray for those in Florida in the storm’s path.”

This State of Emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and equipment for response and recovery efforts. Virginians should be prepared for the potential of severe rainfall, flooding, wind damage, tornadoes, and other storm-related impacts.

The Virginia Emergency Support Team (VEST) actively monitors the situation and coordinates resources and information to prepare for this storm. The Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) will coordinate preparedness, response, and recovery efforts with local, state, and federal officials.


The full text of Executive Order 22 is available here.

Recommendations for Virginians

Make a plan. Plan in advance a route to a safe place, how you will stay in contact with family and friends, and what you will do in different situations. Additional planning resources are available at https://www.vaemergency.gov/prepare/make-a-plan/.

Prepare an emergency kit. For a list of recommended emergency supplies to sustain your household before, during, and after the storm, visit VAemergency.gov/emergency-kit.

Stay informed. Virginians should follow the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for preparedness updates and their local National Weather Service office for the latest weather forecast, advisories, watches, or warnings. Download the FEMA app on your smartphone to receive mobile alerts from the National Weather Service. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available to still receive life-saving alerts.

For more information about preparing your business, family, and property against hurricane threats, visit VAemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes.

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Governor Glenn Youngkin to recognize October as Virginia Wine Month

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Governor Glenn Youngkin invites Virginia wine lovers across the Commonwealth and the U.S. to celebrate Virginia Wine Month. October signals the peak of harvest for over 300 wineries, and vineyards as the next vintage of Virginia wine is underway.

“Our local Virginia wine industry continues to flourish and is an integral part of the Commonwealth’s rich agricultural and tourism sectors,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Virginia Wine Month is a chance for Virginians and visitors to celebrate and show support for the hard-working farmers and winemakers responsible for bringing world-class wines into your glass.”

Virginia Wine Month is the nation’s oldest consecutive wine month and attracts millions of tourists to the region. Consistently ranked within the top ten wine regions in the U.S, Virginia Wine generates an estimated $1.73 billion in economic impact and over 10,400 jobs for the Commonwealth, according to a recent study.

This Virginia Wine Month features a limited edition wine release of Cornus Virginicus, a special collaboration between the First Lady of Virginia, Suzanne S. Youngkin, and Barboursville Vineyards. The wine was crafted to celebrate Virginia agriculture and will include a donation to Virginia 4-H and Virginia Future Farmers of America. To learn more, visit virginiawine.org/pages/cv.


From month-long events to local bundles featuring Virginia wines and artisanal foods, Virginia Wine Month celebrates the partnerships and local support critical to the success of Virginia Wine. Specifically, Harvest Party (October 15) is a day where people in the city, the country, and on the shore gather to toast the region’s richness and celebrate the bounty of Virginia-grown food and wine. Visit virginiawine.org/pages/hp-2022 for a list of events and offerings.

Featured restaurant and retail partners are bringing local favorites to Virginia wine lovers at a location near you. Stock up and plan your own Harvest Party at home with recipes, wine, and food pairings, and more here.

For interviews and more information about Virginia Wine Month, please contact Annette Boyd at 804-402-1896 or annette.boyd@virginiawine.org.

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Virginia governor rallies with Kemp to aid bid for suburban Atlanta votes

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin held a get-out-the-vote rally for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in Alpharetta Tuesday. Youngkin has been campaigning for Republican candidates in battleground states like Georgia. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in the Atlanta suburbs Tuesday in hopes of firing up conservative voters in an area that has been moving toward Democrats in recent elections.

Kemp took the stage in Alpharetta’s City Center with Youngkin, whose narrow win last year and success in suburban areas made him a rising star in GOP politics. Youngkin has been campaigning for Republican candidates in other battleground states, like Michigan and Nevada, stirring speculation about his own political aspirations.

“Every state in America deserves a Republican governor,” Youngkin told reporters when asked whether the 2024 election speculation has become a distraction for him.


Youngkin advised down-ballot Georgia Republican candidates to follow Kemp’s lead and focus on inflation, education policies, and crime. Both governors promoted their states’ decision to issue a one-time special refund to taxpayers this year.

Kemp and his opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, have both said they would support issuing another refund next year, though they have differing visions for what to do with the rest of the state’s budget surplus.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin stumped for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in Alpharetta, a northern Atlanta suburb. (Jill Nolin / Georgia Recorder)

“Elections are about the future, and we’ve got to be standing for something,” Kemp said to the crowd Tuesday. “We’ve got to give people a reason to vote for us, and we’re gonna do that. Because when we get back in January after we win this election, we’re gonna send another billion dollars back to the taxpayer because we have excess revenue to do that.”

Kemp has been leading Abrams slightly in the polls, but the last day of voting is still six weeks away. When asked Tuesday if the Democrats’ ground game was still a concern of his, Kemp quickly responded “damn right it is.”

“I will tell all those people out there, don’t believe any of these polls. You cannot underestimate their ground game,” he said. “We cannot get overconfident. We have to work like we’ve never worked before, and we have to have a ground game quite honestly that can compete with theirs. And I believe this year we’re going to do that. We’re never going out to outspend them, but I do believe we’re going to outwork them.”

Kemp pushed for and signed into law several controversial education bills earlier this year, including one measure setting the stage for the Georgia High School Association to require transgender athletes to play on the team aligned with the gender identified on their birth certificate. And he was cheered Tuesday after saying, “we’re going to make sure that we have fairness in girls’ sports,” when rattling off a list of education-related policies.

On the same day Youngkin stumped for Kemp in Georgia, students from more than 90 Virginia schools participated in a planned walkout to protest Youngkin’s proposed rollback of transgender-inclusive K-12 policies.

“Glenn Youngkin is just the latest out-of-touch wannabe 2024 contender headed to Georgia who — just like Brian Kemp — cares more about protecting his political career than fighting for hardworking families,” said Alex Floyd, spokesman for the Abrams campaign.

Keeping Trump at arm’s length

Youngkin’s narrow win last fall over Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, was seen as an encouraging sign for Republicans just one year after President Joe Biden won the swing state.

Kemp was among those watching the Virginia governor’s race closely from afar. Abrams was more directly involved: She traveled to Virginia to campaign for McAuliffe.

Youngkin’s win was also notable at the time because he received Trump’s endorsement but still managed to maintain distance from the polarizing figure.

Like Youngkin, Kemp is trying to appeal to the state’s pro-Trump base while targeting more moderate suburban Republicans who may have been turned off by the former president. But unlike his Virginian counterpart, Kemp has been a favorite target of Trump’s ire ever since he refused to help overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

“Kemp essentially is hoping to replicate what Youngkin was able to achieve in Virginia, and that is hold on to the bulk of the Trump vote but then also bring into the fold those anti-Trump Republicans who voted for Joe Biden or voted for Raphael Warnock,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

“The other part is that Youngkin, like Kemp, never trashed Trump, but on the other hand, he always kept Trump well at arm’s length. Now, Brian doesn’t have to worry about keeping Trump at arm’s length. Trump is at least that far away and maybe further. But Kemp would like to be able to run again without Trump having an influence.”

With limited effect, Trump backed a slate of GOP candidates in the state’s primaries. Kemp easily defeated Trump’s pick for governor, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, but two of the former president’s other favored candidates, Herschel Walker and Burt Jones, will appear on the ballot this November.

Trump is said to be considering a Georgia rally next month, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported. That’s not good news for Kemp, Bullock said. Even if Trump doesn’t directly attack Kemp, any continued talk about a stolen election in Georgia could stir up the anti-Trump vote and hurt Republicans on the ballot, he said.

This story first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, a sister publication of the Virginia Mercury within the States Newsroom network. 

by Jill Nolin, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia has issued 5,600 nonbinary driver’s licenses and IDs since 2020

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Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles has issued approximately 5,600 driver’s licenses and other forms of ID with a nonbinary gender designation since a 2020 law that allowed people to choose that option rather than male or female.

The number includes “driver’s licenses, identification cards, driver privilege cards, and identification privilege cards,” said Jessica Cowardin, a spokesperson for the DMV.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said he was surprised to hear so many people had taken advantage of the option since the law went into effect July 1, 2020, but said the number indicated “how important it is to so many people.”

“There’s thousands of Virginians that have a very strong and sincere belief that they ought to be able to express their gender identity that way in government records,” he said. “There’s probably other government records we ought to be thinking about as well.”


Virginia isn’t alone in offering a nonbinary designation on driver’s licenses. According to the nonprofit Movement Advancement Project, which tracks LGBTQ+ legislation nationwide, 22 states and Washington, D.C. now allow residents to list themselves as “X,” or nonbinary, on the identification. The U.S. Department of State also began allowing people to use X as a gender marker on U.S. passports in April.

Surovell said it was “important that the government meet people where they are and recognize who they are.”

“For decades, the government put lots of people in boxes in lots of ways,” he said. “And going forward, I don’t think a lot of young people see themselves that way.”

by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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More than 90 school walkouts against transgender policies and more Va. headlines

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The state Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• It remains unclear how the Virginia High School League, which currently allows transgender students to play on sports teams that match their gender identity under certain conditions, will react to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to overturn that rule.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Students at more than 90 Virginia schools walked out in protest of Youngkin’s proposed policies on transgender teens.—Washington Post, Associated Press

• Body camera footage shows a Wytheville police officer muttering “this is teenage stuff” after interviewing two Republican lawmakers about an alleged shove that happened at a GOP fundraiser. The footage also reveals Del. Wren Williams was initially uncooperative when police asked him about Del. Marie March’s claim he had pushed her.—Cardinal News


• Youngkin is hosting a two-day “red vest retreat” with big GOP donors at a luxury resort near Charlottesville. The event will feature a speech by former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who called the governor “a national star with a great future.”—Washington Post

• Newly revealed video shows the two suspects who vandalized a Richmond mural dedicated to Black tennis legend Arthur Ashe with white supremacist graffiti.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• A new project from VPM explores how Richmond is trying to handle a wave of gun violence that’s been particularly harmful to young people.—VPM

• Hurricane Ian could bring heavy rain to parts of Virginia this weekend.—13News Now

• Prosecutors decided not to charge Joshua Yabut, the former National Guard soldier who famously commandeered an armored vehicle in 2018 and drove it to Richmond, after he was accused of interfering with first responders in an unrelated incident earlier this year.—WTVR

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Federal proposal requiring Mountain Valley Pipeline completion halted

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WASHINGTON — A permitting reform proposal by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin that would have required completion of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline was halted Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer removed the measure from a catchall spending package late in the afternoon after Manchin released a statement calling on him to do so.

The U.S. Senate then voted 72-23 to advance the spending bill, which would provide billions to aid Ukraine’s war effort, help communities throughout the country recover from natural disasters and keep the federal government funded through mid-December.

The Manchin plan had drawn a widespread rebuke from most Republicans, a few Senate Democrats, including Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, and a large group of progressive U.S. House members, all of which could have put passage of the government funding package at risk before the current law expires on Friday at midnight.


Federal climate deal could force completion of Mountain Valley Pipeline

Schumer said in his floor speech that he’d work with Manchin and others “to have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year.” West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said language could be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual policy bill for the Pentagon.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a statement removing Manchin’s permitting reform bill from the government spending package was the “right move” and urged leaders to keep it off “any future ‘must-pass’ legislation.”

“Many would agree that our permitting system could be improved,” Merkley said. “If the Senate is going to take up these questions in the future, it must be with a deliberative committee process and a robust, stand-alone floor debate that gives the American people, and especially those most impacted by this legislation, a full opportunity to weigh in.”

Kaine issued a statement shortly after the vote saying that “like so many Virginians, I’m relieved we defeated the attempt to greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline without normal administrative and judicial review. Now we can move on and fulfill our responsibility to fund the government.”

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement that the U.S. “still need(s) to take sensible steps to reduce European dependence on Russian energy while maintaining an affordable and resilient supply here at home” and said he intends to continue work on reforms “that protect our national and economic security, but also respect concerns voiced by those communities most impacted by these projects.”

Kaine pipeline objections

Many lawmakers had urged the removal of Manchin’s permitting reform bill from the must-pass government funding package for weeks. Earlier this month, more than 70 progressive Democrats signed onto a letter that asked party leaders to keep Manchin’s bill out of the funding package that must become law before Oct. 1.

Kaine has repeatedly rebuked the bill, saying its requirement of approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline “could open the door to serious abuse and even corruption.”

The 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is intended to carry natural gas from the Marcellus shale fields of West Virginia to southern Virginia, has been a major point of contention in Virginia for years. Facing numerous court challenges from opponents, Mountain Valley has repeatedly lost federal approvals and remains unfinished, with most of the incomplete portions of the line lying in Virginia’s Giles, Craig and Montgomery counties.

“The pipeline runs through Virginia for 100 miles and takes property from landowners, but I was not consulted as a deal was struck to approve it and thus not given an opportunity to share my constituents’ deep concerns,” Kaine said in a statement earlier in the day announcing he’d vote against the package.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine speaks on the U.S. Senate floor about legislation from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin that would force completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

 

Kaine then urged Senate leaders to pass a funding package “free of the unprecedented and dangerous MVP deal.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, also rejected the permitting reform part of the package, saying from the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon before Schumer removed the bill that it was a “poison pill.”

“What our Democratic colleagues have produced is a phony fig leaf that would actually set back the cause of real permitting reform,” McConnell said.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and 17 other Republican attorneys general including Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders Tuesday opposing Manchin’s energy permitting bill on the grounds that it “would effectively create a backdoor Clean Power Plan,” overrule “states’ traditional authority to set their own resource and utility policies, and upset the careful balance of state and federal authority that has been a cornerstone of the Federal Power Act for nearly a century.”

Government funding

The overall spending package, if approved by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House this week, would fund the government through Dec. 16. The measure must become law before Friday at midnight, when current federal spending authority expires, to avoid a funding lapse or a partial government shutdown.

That is a scenario Democratic leaders wanted to avoid, especially with just weeks to go before the November midterm elections.

The spending package, released just before midnight Monday night, would provide billions in funding to ease home heating and cooling costs for low-income households, pay for community block disaster grants, and continue recovery efforts related to the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire that damaged much of New Mexico this spring.

It includes $12 billion in Ukraine aid, the third installment this year, bringing the total U.S. investment in the country’s war effort to about $66 billion.

Congress approved a $13.6 billion relief package in March, just weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, and another $40 billion package in May with broad bipartisan support.

The Biden administration requested this tranche of Ukraine assistance, funding a total of $11.7 billion.

U.S. lawmakers also opted to include $35 million “to respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine, assist Ukrainian partners with the security of nuclear and radiological materials, and prevent the illicit smuggling of nuclear and radiological material.”

The package does not include $22.4 billion in COVID-19 funding or $4.5 billion for the monkeypox outbreak, both of which were requested by the White House and broadly rejected by Republicans.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said Tuesday he believes leaving out that public health funding is “shortsighted.”

Leahy said he would “revisit” the issue in December, when Congress is supposed to agree on a full-year funding package.

 

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 26, 2022 (Photo by Marisa Demarco / Source New Mexico)

 

Avoiding a shutdown

The short-term spending bill, sometimes referred to as a continuing resolution, or CR is needed to prevent a government shutdown when the current spending law expires at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The stopgap is intended to give lawmakers and the Biden administration more time to agree on how much the federal government should spend during the fiscal year 2023, which begins on October 1, and where any increases in funding should be directed.

Bipartisan agreement on total discretionary spending levels, $1.512 trillion for the current fiscal year, would allow the 12 panels in charge of an annual government spending bill to begin drafting legislation to fund dozens of departments and agencies.

President Joe Biden’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year asked Congress to approve $795 billion for defense programs and $915 billion for nondefense programs, which includes spending on the Homeland Security, Justice, and Veterans Affairs departments.

Current law provides for $782 billion for defense spending and $730 billion for nondefense funding.

If Congress and the White House cannot agree on the bills before their new December deadline, they can pass another short-term spending bill extending into 2023.

However, that type of funding strategy poses problems for many federal departments, including the Pentagon. Since the short-term stopgap spending bills continue current spending levels and policies into the new fiscal year, federal departments typically can’t start new programs or boost spending in areas they targeted for additional funding in the budget request.

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
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Fall Bazaar will be held Friday, Sept 30th, from 4:30 – 6:30 pm, and Saturday, October 1st, from 8 am – 2 pm, in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Baked goods, jewelry[...]
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
 
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Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
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Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
Fall Bazaar will be held Saturday, October 1st, from 8 am – 2 pm, in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Baked goods, jewelry and accessories, Silent Auction, holiday decorations, and apple dumplings[...]
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Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. During Fall Farm Days’ Nature Weekend, get in touch with nature and explore a managed landscape rich in biodiversity. Discover native flora and fauna, learn the craft of beekeeping, the importance of various[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
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The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
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WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
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WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
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11:00 am Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. During Fall Farm Days’ Nature Weekend, get in touch with nature and explore a managed landscape rich in biodiversity. Discover native flora and fauna, learn the craft of beekeeping, the importance of various[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 2 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]