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Northam pitches $245 million for state nature trails, including new one in the Richmond area

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RTD A1 - Dec. 9, 2021

Gov. Ralph Northam’s outgoing budget will include $245 million for outdoor recreation in Virginia, including the expansion of the state’s network of regional nature trails.

The money would support existing trails and help develop new ones, like the Fall Line trail, a 43-mile hike connecting Richmond, the town of Ashland, Hanover, Henrico and Chesterfield counties, and Colonial Heights and Petersburg.

The trail denotes the area where the Piedmont plateau and Atlantic Coastal Plain meet, resulting in a number of rapids and waterfalls. The money would also support developing trails in the Eastern Shore and Shenandoah River.

“Virginia is home to a robust outdoor recreation economy, with 41 state parks and more than 450 miles of recreational paths,” said Northam, who made the announcement on Brown’s Island in Richmond.

“Our natural assets draw tens of thousands of visitors each year, opening up countless opportunities for economic development across Virginia. This increased funding will make significant progress towards both preserving the beauty of Virginia’s landscape and ensuring that this critical industry continues to thrive for years to come.”

Northam will formally unveil his outgoing budget on Dec. 16. On Jan. 15, Northam will cede power to Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, who together with the legislature will have a final say over the budget. The proposal would cover budget years 2023 and 2024.

Youngkin will come into office with a set of his own priorities. He has urged Northam to include in his final budget tax cuts for Virginia taxpayers, arguing that recent and projected budget surpluses suggest the state is taxing Virginians too much.

This week, Northam pitched a 10% pay raise for teachers, who in Virginia make less than the national average. The pay raises would be covered by a $2.4 billion two-year investment from the state, and contributions from localities.

Northam is also asking for $223 million for state troopers and correctional officers, deputy sheriffs and regional jail officials. The starting salary of a newly sworn state trooper would increase by nearly 8%, while the starting salary for a new corrections officer would increase by 25%, with money also budgeted for raises across the experience ladder. Northam said entry-level salaries for deputy sheriffs and regional jail officials would rise by about 20% on average under his proposal.

Youngkin has said he supports pay increases for teachers and proactive retention efforts for law enforcement officers.

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Twitter: @MelLeonor_


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