State budget agreement includes funding for western Virginia

Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 7:30 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Funding for pay raises, passenger rail and higher education are major features of a new Virginia budget compromise.

For state employees and teachers in our area, the plan includes funding for a 5% pay raise. State Police would get a 3% bump on top of that.

The proposal also includes major funding to extend passenger rail to the New River Valley.

“I’m very pleased,” Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) told WDB7 Friday morning. “$83,500,000 for passenger rail between Roanoke and Christiansburg is very exciting and I think we’re going to get it as soon as possible.”

It’s not a done deal. State officials are still negotiating with Norfolk Southern. But with the funding in the budget, and approval of the New River Valley Rail Station Authority, the project is moving forward.

“Norfolk Southern is at the bargaining table. That is different from where they were even a year ago,” Del. Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) said in an interview. “I think that all sides want to come to an agreement, and now we just need to let that process play out.”

The budget also includes language calling for the state to evaluate extending service to Bristol and a possible station for Bedford.

The budget agreement also proposed additional funding for institutions of higher education in our area, including a plan to equalize tuition at Radford University Carilion in Roanoke, and financing for a new undergraduate laboratory building at Virginia Tech.

A final vote on the budget is expected Saturday afternoon.

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