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Youngkin OKs Virginia teacher tax breaks, help for foster care youth

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When 18-year-olds move out of foster care, Virginia will be stepping up with help finding housing through a General Assembly bill that Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed into law.

Teachers will get a tax break when they dig into their pockets to buy classroom supplies, too.

Both were among initiatives the General Assembly approved during this year's special session. The governor had a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Thursday to act on remaining bills - and say yes, no, or I want changes.

The governor also approved the School Construction Fund and Program proposed by state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, and Del. Israel O'Quinn, R-Washington County, which will award grants to local school boards for building, renovating or adding to schools.

The state budget approved during the special session sets aside $1.5 billion for school construction.

The foster care bill, sponsored by Del. Anne Ferrell Tata, R-Virginia Beach, says local social services departments will provide housing support for youth when they age out of foster care at 18. That support is also to be provided to young people leaving Department of Juvenile Justice facilities as they participate in programs to become self-sufficient. That support would be available to those young people until they turn 21.

The new effort is likely to cost about $630,000 a year, General Assembly fiscal analysts estimate. Almost all would come from the state.

The state Department of Social Services expects about 200 youth a year would seek the support, or roughly half the number of young people who aged out of foster care in fiscal year 2021, the latest data available.   

Teachers would get income tax deductions of up to $500 in 2022, 2023 and 2024 for money they spent buying classroom supplies, books and equipment. Principals, counselors and staff who work with students with special needs can also get the credit, after Youngkin signed a bill sponsored by Del. Karen S. Greenhalgh, R-Virginia Beach. 

Although nobody can say how many educators would seek the credit, if all those eligible claimed the maximum, it would reduce tax collections by $3.5 million a year, according to the General Assembly's financial analysts.

Bills sponsored by Del. John J. McGuire, R-Goochland, and state Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, write into law the income tax break for veterans' retirement pay that the special session voted into the state budget. The relief, which is for veterans over 55, also covers other military benefits as well as benefits paid to surviving spouses.

"This is a chance to deliver for Virginia's students, parents, our veterans, and teachers," said Macaulay Porter, Youngkin's press secretary.

"These special session bills reaffirm the governor's commitment to deliver on the largest education budget in the history of Virginia including creative structures to support school construction and classroom materials," she said.

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