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Glenn Youngkin issues 200-plus budget proposal amendments

Four people are seen by a podium during a budget presentation.
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera (far left), Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Secretary of Finance Stephen Cummings (far right) watch as Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel speaks on April 8, 2024 in Richmond.

The updated two-year proposal reportedly has $64 billion in general fund spending.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin outlined an unprecedented amount of amendments to the budget that passed the Democrat-controlled General Assembly on Monday.

In a PowerPoint-style presentation, Youngkin called his budget “common ground,” eliminating tax increases that Virginia's Legislature had sent him — after he had proposed $1 billion in tax cuts in December — through what aides said was 233 amendments.

“We all represent a vast array of voices and priorities. And over the course of this process, we have had an opportunity to listen,” he said. “We all bring different experiences, unique perspectives. And I want to thank all of the members of our conference committee for the work that they have done.”

The state budget, which lasts for two years, will begin July 1 and run through June 30, 2026. It not only funds the state government, but flows to school districts, counties and cities across the commonwealth.

Youngkin said his proposed version has $64 billion in general fund spending.

It’s not immediately clear to what degree the governor’s proposed amendments compare to the one passed by the General Assembly. Youngkin aides and Cabinet secretaries compared much of this budget to the 2022-24 plan, other portions in comparison to the version Democrats sent at the end of the legislative session in March, and sometimes in comparison to the budget in 2019 passed during former Gov. Ralph Northam's administration.

The text of the amendments would be released later Monday, the aides said. (Updated 10:47 p.m.: The budget amendments are live on the state budget's website.)

Youngkin and his staff said the proposed changes include a 3% raise for teachers and state employees for each year in the budget. Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said Virginia would exceed the national average salary for teachers this year. (The 2023 National Education Association report puts that at $66,745 for public school teachers; the Virginia arm said last year that the commonwealth's teachers make roughly $6,787 less on average.)

It’s unclear how much of that is contingent on local funding, as recent budgets have utilized.

Aides also said Youngkin’s budget amendments restore lab school funding, although they did not give a dollar figure. Legislators had removed funding from their conference report. Youngkin had provided $60 million for the state’s lab school fund, according to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal analysis.

Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel said a $3.2 billion increase in that department included funds to make up from federal pandemic aid ending. Youngkin had already proposed $500 million in new behavioral health funding as part of his “Right Help, Right Now” plan.

“This represents another post-pandemic instance where the federal government is stepping away from its enhanced funding, and the state must step up,” he said. Littel said the budget would have $895 million more for Medicaid and children’s health programs. He said $560 million would go towards Developmental Disability (DD) waivers and mentoring, rental assistance and other services for DD waivers.

The governor’s amendments also include removing a requirement to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon market for states in the mid-Atlantic and New England, that the state air board voted to leave in June 2023. RGGI funds flood prevention and energy efficiency programs.

A Youngkin aide said removing the requirement to rejoin RGGI came as an amendment and not a line-item veto, a power Youngkin holds. Youngkin said he made no vetoes in actions on his budget.

Youngkin’s 233 proposed amendments to the budget outnumber those of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, another governor who was at odds with a Legislature controlled by an opposing party. In 2016, McAuliffe made at least 121 amendments.

Youngkin thanked legislators he had clashed with publicly in the past, and used the term “common ground” over a dozen times.

Youngkin’s cast his “Common Ground” proposal as a compromise after he held campaign-style events castigating the budget Democrats had sent him as the “Backward Budget.”

Youngkin first proposed raising the sales tax, expanding it to digital goods and reducing the income tax. The overall effect was a $1 billion reduction of taxes over two years.

Democrats passed a budget to include a broader expansion of the sales and use tax, but without the income tax reduction. The over $2 billion in extra revenue supported increased spending, with $1.2 billion more in education funding.

“I think the big step for us … I have ceded no longer advocating for tax cuts. And I've asked them to please come in and have no tax increases,” Youngkin said. He said he reintroduced $230 million of $850 million of his priorities Democrats removed from his proposed budget.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D–Fairfax) expressed doubt on whether those figures were comprehensive.

“The big question we have is exactly how did he make this balance?” he said, saying revenue carried over from the last budget or the commonwealth’s revenue reserve fund were not included.

The Legislature meets April 17 to consider Youngkin’s amendments and his other actions on legislation, which he needs to act on before the end of Monday.

His amendments need a simple majority to be approved.

He has already acted on hundreds of bills, signing into law reforms to the unemployment system, new penalties on firearms, changes to the behavioral health system, and new requirements for campaign finance.

Youngkin has also vetoed a record number of bills, including abortion shield laws, cannabis, and the minimum wage. Other remaining legislation include those concerning contraception access, how the state handles its Confederate legacy, LGBTQ issues and transportation.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
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