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Lawmakers tour the state, offering contrasting budget visions

Alsuezi gives a demonstration to a group of lawmakers
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Adam Alsuezi, a biology major at George Mason University, demonstrates the 3D printer to a delegation of lawmakers on Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at George Mason University in Fairfax County.

When the General Assembly reconvenes April 17, it will consider Youngkin's proposal.

Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly wrapped up a tour across the state Wednesday, as they promote the budget proposal Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has been campaigning against.

State Sen. Louise Lucas (D–Portsmouth) and Del. Luke Torian (D–Prince William) made a final stop at a hospital in Southwest Virginia. It comes after events in Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia.

The tours mark opposing sides taking their arguments to stops around the commonwealth — rather than expressing their views during press conferences at the Capitol and in letters to one another.

During his “Backward Budget” tour, Youngkin focused on taxes, public safety, and a reportedly-doomed arena economic development project. Democrats, on their own tour, have touted what they've called investments primarily in education and health care.

“The governor is going out to tell his story. We are here to tell the truth,” Lucas said Tuesday during a stop at George Mason University in Fairfax.

Youngkin has accused Democrats of being underhanded in regard to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and how they passed tax cuts.

“They did this without telling anybody. They kind of wanted to pretend like they weren't doing it. But let's just be clear, $2 billion of sales tax increases across the commonwealth of Virginia is going to show up in everybody's shrinking wallet,” Youngkin said during his first stop earlier this month.

Increases in Virginia’s sales tax were originally proposed by the governor alongside cuts to the income tax for an overall tax reduction. Democrats kept Youngkin’s proposal to remove an exemption from Virginia’s sales and use tax for digital goods and services, expanding it to include business-to-business transactions.

That new revenue would give Democrats more money to fund health care and education initiatives.

“We want our students to know how much we value them, and we're making an investment in them through this budget,” Torian said at GMU.

Lucas, arguably one of the most powerful people in the General Assembly as the gatekeeper to state finances, has signaled she won’t budge on certain issues. Youngkin, meanwhile, indicated he would veto some Democratic priorities in retaliation for roadblocks she presented to the Northern Virginia economic development deal.

“I think this whole process … draws an incredibly clear contrast and highlights the two visions in Virginia,” Youngkin said earlier this month in Chesterfield County. “The other side has a vision for Virginia that candidly is based on taxing you more, as much as you can take before you move away.”

Youngkin will make changes to the budget in the form of amendments and line-item vetoes, then send it back to lawmakers. When the General Assembly reconvenes on April 17, it will consider his changes and send the governor a final budget for consideration. If Youngkin vetoes the entire budget, a special session would be called.

Virginia’s two-year budget ends on June 30. If an agreement isn’t reached by July 1, there could be a statewide government shutdown.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.