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Youngkin unhappy with legislators’ proposed budget

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(The Center Square) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin is busy reviewing legislation from Virginia’s 2024 legislative session and the proposed budget from the Legislature – and he may make some significant changes to the latter based on comments he’s made.

“The General Assembly sent me more than a thousand bills plus backward budgets that need a lot of work. We’re going to have a busy 30 days going into the reconvene session,” Youngkin said in a statement.

The majority-Democrat House of Delegates and Senate did away with many of the governor’s recommended tax cuts while keeping his suggested reform of taxing both individual and business-to-business digital sales – things like downloads and streaming – which adds up to about $1 billion in new taxes for the commonwealth.

Youngkin was disappointed with those revisions as tax cuts have been a part of each of the governor’s proposed budgets.

“Structural balance matters,” the governor said in a statement. “Virginians can’t afford another tax increase and, in fact, need additional tax relief.”

Another letdown for the governor was the legislature’s ultimate refusal to include funding for his prized entertainment district project with Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which would bring Washington’s professional basketball and hockey teams to Virginia. Though the plan had legs in the House, powerful legislators in the Senate, like Chair of Finance and Appropriations Sen. Louise Lucas, never got behind the idea, omitting it from the negotiated budget.

The governor has vigorously promoted the arena, including it in his State of the Commonwealth address, and routinely shares op-eds supporting it. He gave remarks outside the Capitol once it became clear it likely wouldn’t be included in the negotiated budget.

“The way the Senate has handled this opportunity, I fear damages Virginia’s business environment. It’s a clear signal that opportunities to welcome new investment and jobs – even ones of historic magnitude – will not be evaluated on their merit, but instead will be viewed through the lens of partisan, parochial interests,” Youngkin said.

He underscores that Virginia’s growth relies on leadership that rises above partisanship and comes together to move the commonwealth forward.

Not only did Democrats abandon Youngkin’s tax cuts, but they also found his education funding insufficient. The House and Senate ultimately agreed on a $1.2 billion increase over Youngkin’s proffer, most of that going toward benchmarking costs (adjusting school budgets for inflation, salary changes and the like).

In a bold move, Youngkin challenged some of the findings of a summer study by the state’s legislative watchdog, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which concluded that Virginia’s education system has been underfunded for years. Youngkin called some of the Commission’s data “outdated.”

“I fear that outdated data sources are distracting us from recognizing the significant progress we have made together since 2022,” the letter reads.

If Youngkin’s budget amendments are anything like his vetoes, they may be plentiful this year. The governor has already vetoed eight bills from this session after acting on just 84 bills when there are more than 1,000 to review. By comparison, he only vetoed eight bills from last year’s entire legislative session.

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