Glenn Youngkin fires Virginia lawmakers to pass unlikely budget
“I doubt anything will come of it,” said Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), chair of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committee, who called the session “premature.” “The budget is still at an impasse and most of the pending bills have tax implications. It’s a total waste of time for legislators.
During an appearance in Richmond on Friday, Youngkin suggested the session would give lawmakers a much-needed boost, even if there is no prospect of a vote on the budget that day. “We have to move,” he told reporters, after an appearance with Latino business leaders at the Wooden Spoon restaurant.
“I’m a little disappointed that there hasn’t been more interaction ‘among the negotiators’ this week, but I fully expect them to be in a meeting on Monday” and beyond, a- he declared. “I think because of the quality of the people working on this project, they can do it in a reasonably short time.”
After failing to reach a budget agreement in the regular session, which ended on March 12, members of the General Assembly adjourned knowing they would have to finish the job in a special session. They expected the governor to call them back to Richmond once House and Senate budget negotiators reach agreement on the two-year spending plan.
But Youngkin hasn’t waited for an agreement to call them back and run TV ads aimed at drumming up support for the tax cuts he wants to include in the budget. Eleven days after the regular session of lawmakers ended, the governor announced April 4 as the date for the special session, catching Democrats and at least some Republicans off guard.
By then, House and Senate negotiators had not even resumed budget talks. In fact, they still haven’t, apart from some work among committee members and staff. Both sides opted for a “cool down” period after the regular session and felt confident of overcoming their differences well before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Leaders on both sides expect to sit down and set a meeting schedule on Monday, after chambers have spoken, Del said. Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “I guess we’ll give the hammer away and go into recess and then we’ll control the schedule,” he said. “I imagine we won’t be back until we have a budget.”
Of the. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax), a budget negotiator, called Monday’s session “a bit of a waste of time” for a “citizen legislature” whose members must suspend their daily work to return to the Capitol with no prospect adoption of the budget.
Tax cuts, a campaign target for Youngkin last fall, are the main sticking point. He wants to double the standard deduction on personal income taxes and eliminate state and local taxes on groceries. The Republican-led House passed a version of the budget that would do both.
But the Democratic-controlled Senate wants to take a year to thoroughly study the tax cuts because of their long-term revenue impact. The Senate plan would eliminate the state’s 1.5% portion of the grocery tax, but leave in place a 1% tax that goes to localities.
The differences created a gap of about $3 billion between the two spending plans, and negotiators were unable to reach a compromise before the end of the regular session. Since then, Youngkin has deepened the chasm by calling on the General Assembly to approve a three-month “petrol tax” to help consumers suffering from soaring prices caused by inflation and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. He found support for the push among House leaders, but not the Senate.
Both houses were due to return for a veto session on April 27, when members will consider governor’s amendments or vetoes of legislation passed during the regular session. Some lawmakers have expressed hope that they will be able to vote on the budget at this meeting, also known as the resumption session.
“We have time to put together a really great budget, and I think the resumption date is a really good target date to look at since we’re all going to be in town,” Sickles said, adding that it’s possible that special session is to advance the dozens of other bills that have been postponed. “There are 40 published conference reports,” he said. “So something could happen here and send a bill to the governor’s office.”
Sen. George L. Barker (D-Fairfax), another negotiator, noted that most bills would have a financial impact on the budget, so it doesn’t make sense to act until the plan expenditure is defined. It costs the state nearly $46,000 each day the General Assembly is in session, according to House and Senate clerks.
Noting the price tag, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) said, “I’ll be there Monday, but it could all have been handled on April 27, saving taxpayers a little money.”