Budget talks include ‘additional information’ to conclude in special session



(The Center Square) — The Virginia General Assembly was unable to secure a 2/3 majority needed to overturn any of the governor’s vetoes during its reconvened session but was able to push back on some of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s amendments, rejecting about half of them — including his amendments to the proposed budget.

A speech from the House of Delegates majority leader kicking off the reconvened session and impugning the governor’s budget amendments made it seem like both chambers might have a long and contentious day ahead. But Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, finished on a gentler note, saying party leaders reached a sort of compromise with the governor that morning.

“The governor did sit down with us today, this morning. He expressed a way to work together,” Herring said. “We look forward, on this side of the aisle of the chamber, to working to find a way forward with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”

From what followed, it appeared the compromise involved the Assembly rejecting Youngkin’s amendments and returning to the drawing board over the next several weeks.

Minority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, urged his party to join Democrats in ruling the governor’s amendments “not specific and severable,” “not necessarily because of anything other than we have to find a clean way forward to dispatch this bill.”

That same day, the governor issued two statements underscoring his commitment to working with General Assembly budget conferees and delivering a budget on time — along with a call for a special session on May 15. The budget is anticipated to be finished for the Assembly’s review by May 13 so the body can vote on it two days later.

Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, shared with The Center Square high-priority areas that the governor will likely have to cede more ground to appease the majority party.

“We will be working together in Richmond over the next few weeks to find consensus on the budget,” Boysko said. “Obviously, at top of mind will be education, transportation and health and human services funding while assuring that we maintain our excellent AAA bond rating.”

Senate Minority Leader Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, alluded to new information that may factor into revived budget negotiations.

“Budget conferees are having conversations, and there’s a lot of additional information that is being collected and reviewed as we go through that process,” McDougle told The Center Square. “I think some of the things that are included are the revenue numbers that were released last week.”

The governor announced March general fund revenues on Tuesday, the day before the reconvened session, with year-to-date collections up 6.2% compared to last year.

“Strong employment growth continues to drive consistent outperformance versus our prudent near-term and long-term forecasts,” Youngkin said in a statement. “As the majority of Virginians complete their state tax filings by May 1, we’ll have stronger confidence in the fourth quarter outlook by May 15. That being said, March’s solid results provide stable ground for us to work together to land a budget that meets our collective goals.”

Last year’s budget negotiations dragged on past the end of the fiscal year in June to September.

At this point, conversations are “very collegial and positive,” McDougle said.

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