RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam and members of his administration will celebrate Public Lands Week, which begins with National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 22. Established in 1993 as a day of volunteer service to help restore the country’s public lands, this year marks the 25th Anniversary of National Public Lands Day. The celebration will conclude on Sunday, September 29 with the 2nd annual Virginia Public Lands Day, showcasing the public lands of Virginia and honoring the Commonwealth’s natural heritage.
To highlight the importance of Virginia’s public lands, Governor Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam will visit Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield on Sunday, September 23 where they will tour the park and present a proclamation recognizing Public Lands Week in Virginia. Governor Northam will also visit First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach on Friday, September 28.
“Public lands represent the best of Virginia. They celebrate our history, our biodiversity and provide countless outdoor recreation opportunities for all Virginians to enjoy,” said Governor Northam. “My administration is committed to protecting and expanding access to public lands across the state to continue to improve quality of life, promote shared stewardship, and grow the tourism and recreational economy of the Commonwealth.”
Virginia’s public lands include state, local, and national parks, forests, nature centers, wilderness and wildlife management areas, waterways, wetlands, community gardens, historical sites, and other types of land—providing residents and visitors with opportunities to explore nature, help protect and preserve our diverse natural resources, and contribute to the state’s economic vitality.
“Public Lands Week is an ideal time to celebrate Virginia’s cherished natural and historic sites that are available to all Virginians and visitors from around the world,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “Whether you love to hunt and fish, bird watch, mountain bike or simply take a walk with family and friends, Virginia’s public lands provide countless opportunities for recreation. We hope that people across the Commonwealth will enjoy our public lands year round, and especially during Public Lands Week.”
The Commonwealth is home to 37 Virginia State Parks covering 73,000 acres with three under development offering 651 miles of trails, with convenient access to boating, fishing, and swimming, and 22 National Park System Units.
Virginia’s 63 Natural Area Preserves cover 56,661 acres and harbor over 750 exemplary natural community and rare species locations and provide hiking and water access. The Virginia Department of Forestry manages 24 State Forests that total 68,858 acres across the Commonwealth, offering 377 miles of recreational trails, and lakes and rivers that provide opportunities for fishing swimming, and paddling. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries maintains 41 Wildlife Management Areas, with more than 200,000 acres of land open to the public for wildlife-related recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing. In addition, local governments provide over 850 neighborhood and local parks covering more than 79,000 acres across Virginia.
Throughout the week, members of the administration will make a series of visits around the Commonwealth to help showcase Virginia’s public lands, promote the accessibility of environmental learning and highlight efforts to protect and restore Virginia’s natural and historic resources. Visits will include:
- Secretary Strickler and Deputy Secretary Saks will visit Presquile National Wildlife Refuge in Henrico, home to the James River Ecology School.
- Secretary Strickler will chair the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation Board of Trustees meeting.
- Secretary Strickler and Deputy Secretary Saks will tour the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Battlefields.
A complete list of programs at Virginia State Parks during Public Lands Week is available here.
Governor Northam issued a proclamation recognizing Public Lands Week in Virginia. Read the full proclamation here.
Virginia Department of Taxation to begin processing individual income tax returns
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation that conforms Virginia’s tax laws to the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and lets the Virginia Department of Taxation begin processing individual income tax returns.
“I am proud that we were able to work together to give Virginians the clarity they deserve during tax season,” said Governor Northam. “Now, because of this important compromise, Virginia taxpayers can properly prepare and file their taxes and our state personnel can start processing tax returns.”
“We are pleased that this bipartisan legislation provides certainty for taxpayers as they file their 2018 individual income tax returns,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “Most importantly, with the Governor’s signature on this legislation, the Virginia Department of Taxation can start processing 2018 individual income tax returns for people in the Commonwealth.”
“We are now preparing our systems to begin processing those 2018 returns,” said Tax Commissioner Craig M. Burns. “We do process them in the order we receive them and, as you may expect, we already have a significant backlog, so you may experience slower turnaround times for refunds than in years past.”
Once your return is processed, you can check the status of your refund by using the Where’s My Refund application on the Department of Taxation website. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Additional information can be found at www.tax.virginia.gov.
January 2019 General Fund Revenue Collections Up 0.4% From Previous Year
RICHMOND—Governor Northam announced that January General Fund revenues rose 0.4 percent from the previous January. Although collections are lagging the annual estimate, growth is expected to be higher in the second half of the fiscal year due to effects of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the timing of payments for individual and corporate income taxes.
“I am pleased to see continued positive revenue performance in January, demonstrating that Virginia’s economy is strong and putting the Commonwealth in a solid position for additional growth,” said Governor Northam. “We expect to see revenues increase further in the second half of the fiscal year, and my team will remain focused on implementing strategies to invest in our workforce, diversify our economic base, and build upon this momentum.”
January is a significant month for revenue collections. Besides the normal monthly payroll withholding and sales tax collections, estimated payments from individuals are due in January. Collections of payroll withholding taxes grew 0.9 percent for the month. The federal government shutdown did not have an effect this month because the shutdown ended and back pay was issued. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting December sales, rose 0.8 percent in January. The combined December and January receipts, representing the bulk of the holiday shopping season, was 3.9 percent above the same period last year. Also, December and January are significant months for collections of nonwithholding and receipts can be distorted by the timing of payments. Taxpayers had until January 15 to submit their fourth estimated payment for tax year 2018 and some of these payments are received in December. Receipts of nonwithholding for the two-month period fell 36.4 percent from last year.
On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 1.3 percent through January, behind the annual forecast of 5.9 percent growth. Year-to-date, withholding collections are 3.9 percent ahead of the same period last year, above the annual estimate of 3.8 percent growth. On a year-to-date basis, sales tax collections have risen 4.0 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of 3.7 percent growth. Nonwithholding collections for the first seven months of the fiscal year fell by 15.5 percent, behind the annual estimate of a 15.2 percent increase. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 1.3 percent through January, below the annual forecast of 5.9 percent growth.
Three Shenandoah Valley counties receive funding to support vendor training, creation of toolkit for hosting of local food trade shows
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today awarded a planning grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund to Augusta, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties to support the development of an innovative local foods program and share the program with other communities. The AFID planning grant program helps localities engage and promote the agriculture industry by providing and expanding new market opportunities at the local and regional level. Shenandoah County is serving as the lead for this project, which leverages an AFID award of $11,885 with an additional $14,000 in local funds.
“Supporting regional efforts to grow and develop the Commonwealth’s agriculture sector, our largest industry, is key to ensuring long-term economic success,” said Governor Northam. “Bringing opportunity to all parts of Virginia demands innovation and partnership like that which is on display with this project, and I commend Augusta, Rockingham, and Shenandoah counties for thinking strategically about how to best integrate regional agricultural assets into their larger economic development plans.”
While agriculture is the Shenandoah Valley’s leading industry, a challenge faced by many small and mid-sized farmers is selling to larger, local buyers like restaurants and institutions. This project addresses that issue in two ways by leveraging the Shenandoah Valley Farm2Fork Affair, a successful local foods trade show. First, in the lead-up to the event, training will be provided to farmers and producers on how to network and market their products to wholesale buyers. Second, following the event, a toolkit will be developed for use by other local governments in the Commonwealth on how to host their own local foods event and train their producers to take advantage of opportunities to market and sell their products.
“Agriculture is an essential piece of Virginia’s economy and it benefits the whole state to support new and creative ways for producers of all sizes to get their products to market,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I applaud efforts like the Shenandoah Valley Farm2Fork Affair and hope to see more like it across the Commonwealth.”
Since its creation in 2012, the AFID planning grant program has awarded $807,482 to 38 projects covering 58 unique localities across the Commonwealth. The planning grants are part of the Governor’s AFID program, an economic development program for political subdivisions of the Commonwealth committed to growing and developing their local agriculture and forestry industry sectors. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services administers the AFID program and planning grant applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
Governor Northam announces 11th Annual Conference on Agricultural Trade
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam will co-host the 11th Annual Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade with the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, and the Port of Virginia on March 5, 2019 at the Richmond Marriott Hotel. The one-day conference will bring together producers, agribusinesses, entrepreneurs, exporters, foreign ambassadors and government ministers, educational leadership, state and federal government officials, and many more to discuss challenges and opportunities for global agricultural exports.
“For more than a decade, the Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade has served as an important forum for stakeholders from Virginia’s two largest industries to come together and hear from key leaders in government, business, and international relations on the outlook of the trade environment,” said Governor Northam. “Global trade is a vital component of a strong Virginia economy and my administration remains committed to growing opportunity for producers and exporters in every part of our Commonwealth.”
The Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade will feature an outstanding array of speakers from the front lines of our trade sector, individuals who are involved in this complex marketplace every day. Conference participants will hear from foreign dignitaries, private-sector leaders, trade negotiators and others on topics that are timely and relevant for 2019 and beyond.
“Our high-quality Virginia agricultural and forest products are in demand around the world,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “As we continue working to build markets around the globe for the Commonwealth’s producers, this conference gives us a chance to discuss the challenges of the current trade environment and find new opportunities for growth.”
This year’s conference will focus on a shifting trade environment, the challenges and opportunities for agriculture, and the outlook for important trade negotiations. Key speakers and participants include Thomas Barkin, the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and Jim DiMenna, the Canada-based CEO of Red Sun Farms, as well as trade negotiators, a variety of industry experts, and dignitaries and officials from many countries, including China.
For more information about the conference click here.
Governor Northam announces launch of 2019 Governor’s Fellows Program
RICHMOND — Governor Northam today announced that applications are now being accepted for the 2019 Governor’s Fellows Program. Since 1982, the Governor’s Fellows Program has offered young Virginians firsthand state government experience at the highest level of the executive branch. Each fellow is placed with a member of the Governor’s Cabinet or with a member of his personal staff, providing an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the work and decision-making in the Office of the Governor.
“Each summer, the Governor’s Fellows Program gives participants a unique glimpse into the administration of state government and an opportunity to gain practical experience that they can carry forward,” said Governor Northam. “Not only do these exceptional young students represent the next generation of Virginia leaders, they bring new energy and valuable perspectives to our office.”
“The Governor’s Fellows Program is a rare experience, and for me was once in a lifetime,” said Cainan Townsend, a Prince Edward School Board member and a 2016 Governor’s Fellow under the McAuliffe administration. “It was an opportunity to gain exposure to our state government from interactions with, cabinet secretaries, state agencies, to the Governor himself. I credit much of my success to my participation in the program.”
In addition, Governor’s fellows learn from special guest speakers from the administration and go on site visits to state government agencies.
Qualified applicants must be rising college seniors, graduating seniors, or graduate students. All Virginia college and university students are eligible to apply, regardless of state of residence. Virginia residents who attend out-of-state colleges and universities are also eligible. Both public and private college and university students are encouraged to apply.
The selection of Fellows is based solely on merit. The Fellows Program does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status.
The deadline to apply for the Governor’s Fellows Program is Friday, March 15, 2019. The program directors will hold interviews between March 20, 2019 and April 6, 2019 and will advise on decisions by April 11, 2019. The program runs from Monday, June 3, 2019 to Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
To apply, visit the Governor’s Fellows Program website and send the required recommendation letters and transcripts to the address below:
Governor’s Fellows Program
Post Office Box 2454
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Governor Northam statement on offensive photo
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam released the following statement February 2nd:
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.
“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.
“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.
“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”
Watch Governor Northam’s statement here:
My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me. pic.twitter.com/1rSw1oxfrX
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 2, 2019