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General Assembly leaves town without a budget, prepares for special session

neoclassical building
Crixell Matthews
The Virginia State Capitol. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Virginia lawmakers called it quits on Saturday, ending the legislative session without finalizing the state’s biennial budget. Gov. Glenn Youngkin is now expected to call the assembly back into session to work out a compromise.

House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said House Republicans were disappointed by the early dismissal.

“We informed our Senate colleagues that we were ready to keep working,” he said. “And for whatever reason, they decided that they wanted to leave today. So we will come back at a time to be determined to keep working on the budget and the people’s business.”

It’s unclear, however, how the Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate will reconcile their vastly different spending proposals - currently separated by a $3 billion dollar spending gap.

“We hope that they are willing to come back to the table very shortly and that we can get closer to an agreement that will give the governor some idea of when he can call us back in and not just have us sitting around looking at each other,” Gilbert said.

The House  wants to send more money back to taxpayers in the form of rebates and doubling the standard deduction. The Senate’s proposal includes slightly smaller rebates and a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit that would put an average of $500 back into the hands of low-income families.

Youngkin, who was elected on a promise to give Virginians a tax break, supported the House budget proposal. He released a statement after the chambers adjourned:

“I’m encouraged with the recent progress on the budget and I’m grateful to the members on both sides of the aisle for their efforts. We need to finalize tax relief, lab schools, and other bipartisan priorities including investing in education, funding law enforcement, and addressing our behavioral health crisis, among others. As I said last week, it could take time to get the budget right. I’d ask that the negotiators work quickly. Virginians are ready and together we can deliver for them all.”

Senate democrats say they’re safeguarding the economy. Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Janet Howell said in a statement that budget negotiators  in her chamber are standing firm.

“Senate conferees will work to maintain the original Senate budget funding to invest in the futures of Virginia’s students, provide health resources, particularly behavioral care, for everyone in the Commonwealth and assure economic strength for every family,” she said. “I look forward to continuing this important process to produce a healthy, responsible, and balanced budget.”

CorrectionDel. Todd Gilbert's title in this story has been updated since it was originally published. He is the Speaker of the House of Delegates, not the Majority Leader. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.