Budget to be voted on today

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The General Assembly is expected to approve a two-year, $77 billion budget today that reflects the slowing economy.

House and Senate negotiators reached a deal Wednesday, four days after the session was scheduled to end. The full House and Senate are scheduled to return tonight to vote on the proposal.

The economic slowdown made negotiations especially tough. To make up for a projected shortfall, lawmakers agreed to use $296 million from the state’s rainy day fund. State agencies will also need to make another round of cuts to make up for a slowdown in revenues. 

However, lawmakers did not approve Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s proposal to help employers pay for health insurance for low-income employees.

Kaine did get $22 million to expand the state’s pre-kindergarten program for low-income students, but he had asked for about double that this year.

The budget also include a $42 million increase in mental health funding — a response to the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech. An additional $4.5 million will also be spent to help war veterans suffering from brain or psychological trauma.

Negotiators are still hashing out a deal on borrowing money for proposed college and mental health construction projects. 

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