Youngkin, lawmakers reach deal on Virginia state budget

Virginia General Assembly
Posted at 7:54 PM, May 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-09 20:06:52-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A deal has been reached between Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly on the state's two-year budget.

The deal still needs approval from the entire General Assembly, which will convene in Richmond on Monday to vote on it. The news brings an end to a months-long standoff over spending priorities and likely averts a state government shutdown.

"Governor Youngkin is grateful for all the members of the General Assembly (GA), as well as the leadership, and conferees for their ongoing efforts to deliver a budget. He looks forward to finishing the work to deliver on our collective priorities for all Virginians next week," Youngkin's Press Secretary Christian Martinez said in a statement Thursday.

"I think that the administration and the House and the Senate, we all came together and had some very meaningful discussion on the budget and what the priorities were for the House and Senate and what some of the priorities that the Governor had, and we came to an agreement that we would try to meet everyone's expectations," Del. Luke Torian, D - Prince William, told CBS 6. Torian chairs the House Appropriations Committee and was among those working on the compromise.

Torian said the compromise budget includes the spending priorities that Democrats had in the budget passed by the House and Senate, including a 3% annual raise for teachers and state employees, and it does not include the tax cuts or new digital sales tax. The latter two were in Youngkin's initial budget proposal, but Democrats dropped the cuts while keeping and expanding upon the digital sales tax.

After that version was passed, Youngkin called it the "backwards budget" in a campaign-style tour around Virginia, which prompted a competing tour from Democrats. Youngkin eventually unveiled his proposed amendments to the GA's budget, which made cuts to some Democrat spending priorities and removed the digital sales tax.

During the session last month when lawmakers took up Youngkin's amendments, the Governor and lawmakers from both parties held a joint press conference announcing the back-and-forth was finished and they were committed to working out a deal.

While that deal has been reached, Torian said the entire budget and more specifics will likely be released Saturday morning.

If that timeline holds, it would allow for lawmakers to vote on the budget Monday. Initially, lawmakers had said it would be introduced this coming Monday and voted upon on Wednesday (Virginia's budget process typically requires a 48-hour waiting period between a budget's introduction and lawmakers being able to vote on it).

"Initially, when we started the budget, the House and the Senate, we were proposing some tax increases to cover some of our spending priorities that we had in the budget. Then after the Governor gave us the revenue report and we recognized that we had enough revenue coming in to cover our spending priorities," said Torian. "Therefore, we could forego, at this time a tax increase. So, that's what we did. We utilized the projections from the revenue report and we were able to cover our spending priorities to cover K through 12 education, to cover higher ed, to address the issue of salary increases for our state employees and our educators as well."

But, Torian said the compromise does not include language from the GA budget that required Virginia to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multistate carbon cap-and-trade program intended to reduce power plants’ carbon emissions. A regulatory panel removed the state from the program under Youngkin’s direction in a move that’s being challenged in court.

"That was part of the agreement that we made and I'll leave it at that," said Torian.

Something not contained in the budget, according to Torian, is any language related to the legalization of skill games in Virginia. Lawmakers had passed legislation to once again allow them in stores, but Youngkin made amendments that severely restricted where they could be placed -- prompting protests from convenience store owners.

Lawmakers rejected Youngkin's amendments during the reconvene session, meaning Youngkin could either sign the bill into law as passed by the General Assembly, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

"We did not include skill games in the budget, because the governor has a bill before him that he needs to address," said Torian.

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