Tommy Wright: When session ends, the campaign begins
Published 10:31 am Thursday, March 2, 2023
The 2023 regular session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die on Saturday, February 25. Saturday’s adjournment of sine die was expected, but a four-page budget bill was not.
When negotiators met on Friday evening, we were well on our way to a final budget deal. Conferees had agreed in principle to $950 million in tax cuts with significant new spending beyond House levels in education and behavioral health. When the Senate team presented the deal to their caucus, the response was a terse no.
Senate negotiators said they simply couldn’t go beyond $500 million in tax cuts and could not meet our House conferees in the middle. As a result, the deal was off.
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What emerged over Saturday was a “stop-gap” budget that keeps our promise to fix the Department of Education’s math error that left schools short on money, $100 million for cost overruns on existing building projects, and authorization to deposit $250 million into the Virginia Retirement System. But this “stop-gap” hasn’t passed either.
By maintaining their “brick wall” against tax cuts, Democrats in the Senate have put teacher pay raises, more money for law enforcement, money for behavioral health, and virtually every other spending priority on hold.
This isn’t a question of money – the money has come in, and is sitting in the Treasury, leaving the Commonwealth with a $3 billion surplus.
But that money can’t go back to taxpayers or be spent on shared priorities until the General Assembly acts on a series of amendments to the existing two-year budget. Negotiators said they’ll continue to work, and the Governor has said he will call a special session as soon as we have a deal.
Democrats need to set aside their ‘brick wall’ rhetoric and put their constituents first. The money is there. It’s ready to be spent. But Democrats can’t abide tax cuts. By digging in to ensure that the Governor can’t get his tax cuts, they’re leaving existing money that could be paid out starting July 1 sitting in the bank.
Should Democrats continue their blockade, Governor Youngkin will have an additional $3 billion sitting around for his 2024-2025 biennial budget.
Republicans want easier life for every Virginian
While the General Assembly cannot directly control the rate of inflation, we can do what we can to alleviate its effects by lowering costs and cutting taxes. Our budget negotiators are still hard at work, but our budget amendments will cut taxes for every working Virginian and put more money back into the pockets of working families.
We were particularly pleased to raise the standard deduction so that more Virginians would pay less in taxes.
In the House budget, the reductions in individual income tax mean 86 percent of taxpaying Virginians will enjoy the benefits of a lower top tax rate and an additional 14,000 Virginians will pay no state income taxes.
We also passed legislation in the House to disconnect us from California emissions standards to make it easier to purchase a car, but Senate Democrats killed this legislation. Our promise to Virginians was simple: we will make their communities safer.
We passed legislation to hold those who sell fentanyl responsible for the lives they take but Democrats killed it. We also cracked down on organized retail theft, helping to protect shopkeepers who are often closing their stores in the face of losses.
Our caucus passed legislation that would keep violent repeat offenders who commit crimes with guns behind bars longer, but Democrats killed that as well.
Other bills we passed would have responded to Democratic led communities like Roanoke and given police the tools they need to respond to crime in their localities.
Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@House.Virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.