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At Virginia Union, Kaine discusses earmarks and election integrity

Tim Kaine gestures during a RVA Chamber appearence.
Sen. Tim Kaine — shown here at an August ChamberRVA event — discussed funding for Virginia Union University while visiting the school on Friday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the return of earmarks could be key for Virginia Union University funding in an upcoming budget, during a visit to the historically Black, Baptist university on Friday.  

“[Virginia] Union has an earmark in FY 23. We have to still do the budget, but the prospects are very good that we'll have that budget done by December,” Kaine said.  

The upcoming election means a change in the balance of Congressional power could come in January, shifting the outlook on what might be included in the budget.  

Two of Kaine’s requests for workforce development funding at Virginia Union, totaling about $3.7 million, were not included in the latest Senate budget bill. But he’s pushing for $2 million for the Virginia Union National Research Institute to be included. That latter piece was a part of the most recent House version of the legislation.

“We went to bat for the research institute. The research institute funding is in the House piece,” Kaine said. “It's not in the Senate piece, but we’ll work together to protect it.”

On Friday’s visit, Kaine and VUU President Hakim Lucas were joined by university staff and consultants working for Lucas.  

“It looks like earmarks are particularly effective for smaller institutions … for groups working with underserved populations that might be underserved because of poverty, underserved because of racial minority or underserved because of [being] rural,” Kaine said.  

Kaine had also requested about $2.5 million for broadband infrastructure at Virginia State University, another HBCU.

Earmarks are now known as Congressionally Directed Spending, and requests from congressional representatives — such as Kaine's — need to be posted online.

“Earmarks [are] not the only game in town,” he said, going on to mention that the CARES Act, the American Rescue Plan Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the infrastructure bill have “competitive grant opportunities.”  

VUU also received about $12 million in ARPA funding earlier in 2022.

On Friday, Kaine also discussed meeting Queen Elizabeth II during her 2007 trip to Virginia when he was governor. He said she'd asked to visit with laborers who worked on the Capitol, as well as victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, which had taken place only weeks beforehand.  

He also commented on Attorney General Jason Miyares’ formation of an “election integrity” unit: “Hey, I want election integrity, but you shouldn't be sending out a false message that Virginia elections don't have integrity. They do.”