RICHMOND, Va. -- After weeks of negotiations and political wrangling over a two-year budget, Governor Glenn Youngkin is expected to sign the $165 billion spending plan on Tuesday.
“We’re going to work right away on people time, not government time,” Youngkin told CBS 6’s Tracy Sears on Monday.
After his first legislative session as governor, Youngkin said there are significant gains in the new budget, including $4 billion in tax reductions, $100 million in economic development projects and significant investments in education — including pay raises for teachers.
To combat rising crime in Virginia, the governor said the budget will also allocate significant funding for public safety.
“We know we’ve had a tremendous rise in violent crime and murder in Virginia, and so $400 million is going to give substantial raises for our law enforcement and fund training and equipment, which is hugely important,” Youngkin said.
He added that public safety initiatives include school resource officers in every school in Virginia, and partnerships between school districts and local law enforcement.
“When a parent drops a child off at school or puts them on a bus, they shouldn’t have to worry about that child coming home just as safe as when they left,” Youngkin said.
During Friday’s legislative session, some of Youngkin’s proposed budget amendments were blocked by Senate democrats, including plans for a 26 cents gas tax holiday that would run from July through September.
Democratic leaders feared the tax break wouldn’t reach the pockets of consumers, and would strap the state’s transportation budget.
“I can tell you in the region where I am, the roads are in the worst shape they’ve ever been and they need that money,” argued Democratic Senator Richard Saslaw.
The amendment’s rejection prompted the governor to blame democrats for playing partisan politics, while democratic leaders in other states and at the federal level are proposing tax breaks at the pump.
“I think that every Virginian that goes to the gas pump and pays $4.90 or $5.00 a gallon should remember the senate democrats when they do that,” Youngkin said. “We had a chance to bring it down and they voted against it three times.”
Senate democrats also blocked an amendment that would have created felony penalties for demonstrations against judges and other judicial employees, meant to intimidate them in their homes.
An amendment that would have denied Medicaid funding for women to receive abortion services where there’s an incapacitating fetal diagnosis, was also blocked by democratic leaders.
Democratic Senator Jennifer McClellan said the amendment would have had devastating consequences for women who didn’t have insurance coverage for such services.
“This amendment will say ‘you’re on your own,” argued McClellan. “It should not be the case when you have gotten devastating news and on top of that, your choices about what to do will be dictated by the insurance you have.”
However, several of the governor’s initiatives also received strong bipartisan support, including an amendment expanding partnerships between institutes of higher education and lab schools to help foster education innovation.
The budget also increases funding for historically black colleges and universities and mental health initiatives to give mental healthcare workers raises and Virginia families greater access to increased support services, in an era now defined as a mental health crisis.
“We’re seeing the result of that with teenage suicides and overdoses,” Youngkin says. “We can go to work right away now. We have substantial funding for necessary salaries in our behavioral health system, which is crucial.”
This year’s budget process dragged on much longer than usual, as negotiators have spent the past two months trying to reach a compromise between both parties.
The new budget goes into effect on July 1.