Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

State budget deal uncertain ahead of reconvened session

Torian gives remarks
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William gives remarks on Thursday, March 7, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia.

Amendments on guns, abortion and environment will also be reviewed by lawmakers.

A day before legislators are set to return to Richmond, Democratic leadership in the General Assembly and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin seemingly have not reached a budget agreement.

Lawmakers on Wednesday will consider Youngkin's actions on legislation, after he amended 116 bills and vetoed a record 153 others. They’ll also consider his 242 recommendations on the budget, which center around maintaining current tax levels and funds Democrats’ priorities at a lower level than what they proposed.

“He is taking the stance that, let's just call this a ‘common ground,’ and that's been pretty explicitly rejected by the Democrats,” said John McGlennon, a political science professor at William & Mary, referring to the nickname Youngkin gave his budget.

Democrats have disputed whether it is a moderate budget, dimming prospects that there will be an agreement reached during the reconvened session — which begins Wednesday and can last up to 10 days.

“He was finding common ground by doing it all by himself, because he certainly didn't engage the House [of Delegates] side when he was making these adjustments,” said Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Youngkin gives remarks
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Gov. Youngkin arrives to giveremarks on the budget on Thursday, March 7, 2024 on the Capitol steps in Richmond, Virginia.

Youngkin’s more conciliatory tone comes after a tour advocating for tax relief and decrying Democrats’ “backwards” budget. He said that the legislature’s proposal would raise taxes by $2.6 billion. Youngkin has overseen billions in tax relief through rebates and changes to the tax structure during his tenure.

“We can fund a $64-billion budget that meets the vast array of the General Assembly's priorities sent over in the conference report without raising taxes,” the governor told VPM news last week. “This is a great opportunity for us to come together on common ground.”

Youngkin also pointed to March revenues being ahead of what was forecast in an emailed statement Tuesday, using the numbers as a reason for Democrats to adopt his budget plan.

“March’s solid results provide stable ground for us to work together to land a budget that meets our collective goals,” he said.

Democrats had taken the Governor’s December proposal to remove a sales-tax exemption for consumers' digital goods and broadened it to include business-to-business transactions. The $1 billion in additional revenue mostly went toward K-12 and higher education.

“All the things that we have funded, we see as necessary priorities,” said Torian.

In an interview Tuesday, Speaker of the House Don Scott said the legislature’s budget was bipartisan and funded priorities in Southwest Virginia, which he visited late last year.

“I made some promises: Some promises that the governor didn't keep when he got their vote,” said Scott, pointing to funding for Interstate 81 and a rural health care committee. “So, we kept our word to those folks who didn't vote for Democrats.”

Scott, who released an ad Tuesday going after the governor, called Youngkin dishonest and extreme in his amendments and vetoes.

“This is bigger than talking about taxes,” Scott said. “Those women who get a devastating diagnosis that their child will probably be born dead or have severe fetal abnormalities. The governor put that language back in the budget to say that Medicaid can't pay for that. He went up to the most vulnerable citizens again.”

The General Assembly will also consider the governor’s vetoes during the reconvened session. The governor vetoed a record number of bills, including new gun regulations, abortion shield laws, environmental laws and a bipartisan measure on school construction.

“In a lot of ways, there's a sense among legislators that he's gone way beyond the normal pattern of vetoing legislation,” said McGlennon. “When you're trying to negotiate with the legislature, that probably is going to [have them] dig their heels in a little bit more fully than otherwise might have been the case.”

This will be Youngkin’s final biennial budget; he’s not eligible to run for consecutive terms as governor.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
Related Stories