Arena deal nixed from the state budget



(The Center Square) — Despite Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s best efforts to promote the $2 billion entertainment district deal he announced in December, the General Assembly isn’t buying it.

The House of Delegates and state Senate released their negotiated proposed budget on Thursday, and it didn’t include funding for the “Glenn Dome.”

“I believe that the Senate is about to make a colossal mistake,” Youngkin said outside the Capitol.

Youngkin won the support of the Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission months ago when it voted unanimously in favor of the public-private partnership district proposal. However, that was before many commission members finished their terms and were replaced by new legislators for Virginia’s 2024 legislative session.

That was the last time the deal had seen unanimous backing from legislators. Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, and Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, patroned companion bills in the House and Senate that would have created a state stadium authority to oversee the district and its development.

The House warmed to the bill more than the Senate did, passing 59-40.

The Senate bill didn’t make it out of the upper chamber, and it was killed by the chair of the Senate finance committee, veteran Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Lucas refused to allow the bill to pass before the committee, voicing vehement disapproval of the deal and the governor’s attempt to “open the tap of… giveaways for billionaires.”

After crossing over, the House bill also died in the Senate. However, the House kept hope alive by including the proposal in its budget. The Senate, unsurprisingly, did not – and the chamber’s budget proposals have to be reconciled before the budget can be presented to the governor.

The House and Senate’s negotiated budget dealt the final blow to the governor’s plans.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that lawmakers didn’t intend to include the proposal in Thursday’s budget, but Youngkin hit back Thursday afternoon with a press conference and an email blast. The “In Case You Missed It” email shared an article by the Cardinal News’ Dwayne Yancey describing a Milwaukee stadium deal with positive results.

Youngkin said the deal represents “the very best interests of the commonwealth of Virginia, the best interests of taxpayers” and would be a true win for the commonwealth in how it was negotiated.

“We had no upfront cash. None. No impact on our AAA credit rating. No new taxes – and in fact, revenues that otherwise will not be here are being used to finance part of the construction activity through bond issuances.

“We had the project positioned. The project can be done, and we can move forward,” Youngkin said.

If legislators approve the proposed negotiated budget on Saturday, then the ball is back in Youngkin’s court. The Assembly will reconvene in April to review his amendments to the budget and any vetoes.

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