RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s divided General Assembly is set to reconvene Wednesday in Richmond to vote on a compromise state budget that would provide billions in tax breaks, raise salaries for teachers and other workers and finance a wide range of projects from road works to school construction.
Lawmakers will be back on Capitol Hill in a special session because they are deadlocked on the spending plan as their regular schedule came to an end in March. They then chose to extend the talks, which took place in private between a handful of negotiators. Lawmakers announced Thursday that they had reached an agreement.
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who campaigned on a promise to enact a broad slate of tax cuts and called on lawmakers for weeks to act urgently, said in a statement he believed the compromise offered a “good framework”. He said the General Assembly is expected to adopt it on Wednesday.
“Then we’ll take some time to review it and see if there are any changes that are needed, and hopefully we can do all of that fairly quickly,” he said in the statement.
The proposed two-year spending planwhich comes at a time when state tax revenues have soared beyond projections and there is still federal coronavirus aid to spend, includes many, but not all, of the tax cuts for which Youngkin claimed.
Under the budget that would take effect July 1, about $1 billion in tax relief would go toward one-time refunds of $250 for individuals and $500 for families. About $1.6 billion would be used to increase the standard deduction — but not quite double it as Youngkin had requested.
About $372 million in tax relief would eliminate the state’s share of sales tax on groceries and essential personal hygiene products; $301 million would provide graduated income tax relief to retired military personnel age 55 or older; and $315 million would make Virginia’s earned income tax credit partially refundable.
The plan does not include a gas tax exemption, which Youngkin and House Republicans had been pushing for.
The budget would also increase the salaries of teachers, state employees, and state-supported local employees. It would allocate $100 million to an initiative supported by Youngkin to partner colleges with K-12 systems to create lab schools, and would direct hundreds of millions toward building and upgrading schools. Lawmakers will also vote on adjustments to the current budget.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw says the General Assembly is not expected to address one of the most contentious issues of the year on Wednesday – a bill that would offer lucrative tax incentives to NFL Washington commanders in an effort to lure the team to Virginia. Saslaw said Tuesday that a compromise version had yet to be drafted.
Lawmakers are poised to interview two judicial nominees for general district court positions, but still have not scheduled a vote on two state Supreme Court vacancies or an opening at the powerful Crown Corporations Commission.
“We haven’t made any progress since January,” said Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell, who participated in negotiations with House Republicans over the posts.
Surovell said the two chambers disagree on how much influence each should have on the picks and on any subsequent vacancy that may be created in a lower court if a judge is promoted.
GOP Del. Rob Bell, who chairs the House committee that oversees judicial appointments, did not return a call seeking comment.
Also on Wednesday, House Democrats are expected to vote on a new caucus leader. The 48-member group ousted minority leader Eileen Filler-Corn in April, months after an unsuccessful election cycle that saw the party lose full control of state government. But they did not immediately elect a new leader at the time.