Governor Ralph Northam today announced his proposed budget will feature major investments in the protection of Virginia’s natural resources, the first installment of a historic commitment to water quality needs and consistent clean water funding. The governor’s funding strategy would accelerate Virginia’s progress towards its 2025 targets for reduction in the Chesapeake Bay and ensure that the Commonwealth meets its cleanup goals.
“There is no time like the present to take action to ensure the protection of Virginia’s natural resources, and these historic investments will ensure that the Commonwealth honors its commitments to improve water quality and to protect the progress we’ve made on restoring the Chesapeake Bay,” said Governor Northam. “We have a unique opportunity with this budget to make investments that will yield benefits for generations of Virginians to come, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly on this front.”
The governor’s proposal would increase funding for Virginia’s unique and successful agricultural best management practices (BMP) cost share program, the technical experts needed to assist farmers, and several important nonpoint source water quality programs to $90 million per year by FY 2020. It also dedicates $50 million to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) to help urban and suburban areas reduce pollution coming off of impervious surfaces.
“This investment provides critical cost-share funding for agriculture best management practices and technical assistance for farmers and forest landowners who play a vital role in conservation and environmental protection in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Virginia’s farmers and forest landowners have been key partners and stakeholders in Virginia’s water quality and land conservation efforts and have long recognized the importance of protecting the Chesapeake Bay.”
Governor Northam envisions these commitments as the first installments of a multi-year investment. When added to other currently appropriated and proposed funds for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, Governor Northam’s proposal would total $492 million through FY 2022, and $773 million through 2024. This five-year plan would represent the largest investment in water quality needs in the history of the Commonwealth and the largest dedication of consistent clean water funding ever.
In addition to water quality, Governor Northam has proposed a funding increase of $11 million for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation to support the data-driven land conservation strategy he outlined in April. The Governor is also seeking a total of approximately $2.5 million to begin returning the Department of Environmental Quality to previous staffing levels to properly regulate and enforce Virginia’s environmental standards, as well as begin implementing the recommendations of Executive Order Six.
“These important down payments will put us on track to revitalize land conservation and environmental quality efforts across Virginia,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Additional outdoor recreation opportunities, a healthy environment, and more responsive and efficient environmental permitting and compliance assistance for businesses will help grow our economy and improve our quality of life.”
Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 18 to share the full details of his structurally balanced budget plan. The proposal features additional investments, as well as a plan to put Virginia on a path to committing 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of the Northam administration.