Governor says Virginia is in a 'good place' financially

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam told state lawmakers Tuesday that Virginia is starting the new budget cycle "in a good place," with a revenue surplus swollen by federal tax law changes and $1.6 billion banked in reserve.

In a speech to the General Assembly's money committees Tuesday, Northam said the state ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $797 million. Much of that money is already earmarked for water quality and taxpayer relief.

Northam said the state put $344.4 million into reserves, bringing the total reserve fund to $1.6 billion by 2021, the highest amount ever.

"We start out this budget cycle in a good place, and we all can, and should, take credit for that," Northam told the committees. "We have accomplished a great deal working together."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the governor warned lawmakers that despite the state's strong financial position now, it doesn't mean they will have a large surplus to spend in the budget he will propose in December. He also cautioned that the next budget will include mandatory increases to update spending on K-12 education and Medicaid.

"As we go into this new budget cycle, we must be both cautious and strategic," he said.

The state is preparing to return $431 million to taxpayers who will receive one-time checks of $110 for individuals and $220 for couples sometime between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.

The refunds will be sent out weeks before elections that will determine control of the legislature. Republicans now have a narrow edge in both chambers.