Governor Glenn Youngkin signs Virginia budget with tax cuts and spending increases

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RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) invited several hundred supporters to a grocery store in suburban Richmond on Tuesday to watch him ceremonially sign the state’s biennial budget, touting his rare combination of $4 billion in government cuts. taxes and increased spending on education and law enforcement. .

“It’s huge,” Youngkin said under a campaign-style banner that read, “Doing it together.” “It’s not all I wanted, so we’ll come back and take the rest” next year, he said. “But it’s a big step in the right direction.”

His action comes just 10 days before the June 30 deadline to put together a budget for the next fiscal year – a relatively tight call caused by protracted negotiations for a compromise between the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Senate. controlled by Democrats.

Youngkin picked up some victories in the budget deal, suffered losses, and ultimately decided to take what he could get, including an increase in the standard state income tax deduction and a reduction in the grocery tax.

At Tuesday’s rally — held at Tom Leonard’s Farmer’s Market, the same store where Youngkin filmed a political ad last fall about eliminating the grocery tax — the new governor charged Senate Democrats for blocking his full agenda, which called for an additional $1 billion in taxes. cuts.

“Virginians deserved a better response from our Senate Democrats than no,” he said. “Now is the time for us to come together,” Youngkin added, citing what he likes to describe as a “movement” that got him elected.

The movement “wasn’t Republicans against Democrats, it was about Virginians standing up for everything we know is right,” he said.

Afterwards, in a brief interview with The Washington Post, Youngkin said he intended to spend the rest of the year organizing similar rallies and “listening sessions” across the state in a kind of perpetual campaign mode – unusual for a Virginia governor. When asked if he was running for another job, Youngkin said he was just trying to keep people informed.

“It’s my job to make sure Virginians know we work for them every day. And so we are going to communicate,” he said. A camera crew from a political consultancy filmed Youngkin shopping for groceries at the end of the rally. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said he didn’t know if the footage would end up in another political ad.

Virginia General Assembly gives Youngkin mixed results on budget

With state coffers full of rising tax collections as well as federal coronavirus relief money, Youngkin and the General Assembly had plenty of resources to allocate in the budget. The centerpiece for Youngkin is a large increase in the standard personal income tax deduction. It had sought to double the current level of $4,500 for individuals and $9,000 for couples filing jointly, and the General Assembly fell just short, at $8,000 and $16,000, respectively.

Taxpayers will also get one-time rebates of $250 for individuals and $500 for couples — again, slightly less than the $300 and $600 requested by Youngkin.

The new budget eliminates a 1.5% statewide grocery tax, but leaves intact a 1% local levy that Youngkin had wanted to eliminate. Lawmakers also denied Youngkin’s repeated request for a three-month vacation from the state’s 26-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, arguing there’s no guarantee wholesalers will pass the savings on to consumers. consumers and that the loss of revenue would hurt transportation expense accounts.

One Republican — Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (Augusta) — has joined all Senate Democrats in opposing the gas tax suspension.

The two-year plan includes a total of more than $19 billion for public education, an all-time high. Teachers and state employees are expected to get 5% raises for each of the next two years, as well as a one-time $1,000 bonus.

Youngkin won $100 million approval for his plan to create “lab schools” across the state, pairing colleges with K-12 schools. Current law only allows public colleges and universities offering teacher education programs to participate in those programs; legislation allowing private institutions to participate failed to make it out of committee at this year’s regular session of the General Assembly.

In a budget session last week, however, the General Assembly passed a Youngkin budget amendment that would allow private colleges and universities to participate, as well as community colleges. But Democrats in the Senate killed a companion amendment that would have transferred more money to the program from public school spending.

Youngkin resurrects gas tax cut but not Commanders Stadium in budget proposals

Senate Democrats blocked several other attempts by Youngkin to legislate through the budget, including a proposal that would have prevented the state from using public money to fund abortions for low-income women in cases where the fetus has “incapacitating” physical or mental deformities. deficiencies.

Youngkin’s own party blocked another proposed amendment, with Republicans in the House of Delegates choosing not to vote on a measure to make it a crime to demonstrate outside a judge’s home for the purpose of intimidation. GOP leaders said they support the idea but want to spend more time crafting legislation.

The new budget comes into effect on July 1.

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