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Youngkin nixes full budget veto, offers 200 amendment recommendations

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(The Center Square) — In a speech Monday entitled “Common Ground for the Commonwealth,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin laid to rest rumors of a full-budget veto.

The governor instead delivered a budget that will return to the General Assembly with more than 200 amendment recommendations.

The governor presented the budget as a “both-and opportunity” — a refrain he’s used before — where Republicans and Democrats can see their priorities met.

“I constantly want to remind us that this pursuit of both-and opportunities consistently presents itself when we search for it,” Youngkin said. “Friends, this is a budget that finds common ground.”

Youngkin’s initial budget proposal included a tax reform package that would have raised the state sales and use tax and begin taxing individuals’ digital data services like streaming services, downloads and data storage. But it also would have lowered income taxes by 12% for all Virginians and enhanced a tax credit offered to low-income Virginians.

The amended budget from the General Assembly eliminated Youngkin’s tax breaks but retained hefty tax increases.

With this latest version, Youngkin conceded his tax cuts but also eliminated the increases.

“I believe that this package of amendments that we’re presenting today can… get us there on time, with a budget that is clean, without tax increases and — yes, a bit frustrating to me — no tax decreases,” he said.

The budget facilitates $64 billion of state spending over fiscal years 2025 and 2026, including a “record investment” in K-12 education of $21.2 billion — $5.5 billion more than was included in the biennial budget “two times ago,” according to the governor. This includes 3% teacher pay raises each year.

The governor also highlighted an increase in higher education funding of $1 billion, coupled with a “commitment to keep tuition increases at no more than 3% the next two years”; a $3.2 billion increase in health and human resources funding; full funding of Virginia’s share of Metro’s operating shortfall; and toll relief for Hampton Roads and additional funding for I-81.

Steve Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at Virginia think tank the Thomas Jefferson Institute, thinks Democrats should be thrilled with the governor’s compromises in the “Common Ground” budget.

“Anybody serious about Virginia governance should be supporting the adoption of this package of amendments,” Haner said in an email newsletter after the speech, claiming the budget “gives Virginia’s Democratic legislators most of the spending they were initially demanding.”

But Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, posted negatively about the presentation Monday afternoon on social media platform X, indicating state Democrats may not feel that way.

“In January, Secretary Cummings gave the SFAC (Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee) a presentation laden with economic red flags for the future – 2 months later when the Gov needs it, everything is sunshine & rainbows,” Surovell wrote.

Surovell is not a member of the budget conference committee, but he is the majority leader of the Senate.

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