Editorial – Bipartisan budget good for Virginia

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Government gridlock can frustrate partisans on both sides of the aisle, but in a purple state like Virginia, forced compromise can sometimes lead to a good outcome.

Such is the case with the Virginia General Assembly’s two-year budget approved overwhelmingly by the House and the Senate last Wednesday after months of disagreement over taxing and spending. The $165 billion final product, now on the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, has much to like for both liberals and conservatives.

Among the highlights:

  • Nearly $4 billion in tax relief, a priority of Youngkin in his first term. Combined, the tax cuts will save the average family of four some $1,100 a year.
  • Ten percent salary increases for schoolteachers and other government workers.
  • A big boost in K-12 education spending, including sorely needed state aid for repairing and replacing aging school buildings. Lawmakers say it would be largest K-12 budget in state history, spending $19.2B over two years, a 20% increase from the current budget.
  • Hundreds of millions for widening Interstate 64 between Hampton Roads and Richmond, to which all of us who have occasion to drive that stretch can give a hearty “amen!”
  • Some $1 billion to shore up the pension system for state workers and retirees.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The budget’s tax relief includes one-time rebates of $250 for individuals and $500 for families later this year. About $1.6 billion would go toward increasing the standard deduction, though not quite as much as Youngkin had advocated.

About $372 million in tax relief would eliminate the state portion of sales tax on groceries and essential personal hygiene products; $301 million would provide phased-in income tax relief for military retirees 55 or older; and $315 million would make the Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit partially refundable, The Associated Press reports. The plan does not include a gas tax holiday, another Youngkin initiative.

The partial repeal of the state’s 2.5% grocery tax was an example of compromise. Republicans wanted the tax repealed entirely, while Democrats wanted to save the 1% that goes to local governments to fund schools.

After months of squabbling and failure to adopt a budget during the 2022 regular session, this week’s vote was overwhelming. In the Senate, where Democrats hold a slight edge, the vote was 32-4. The Republican-controlled House approved it 88-7. Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, was among the handful of lawmakers selected to negotiate the compromise.

We agree with Republican House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, who said, “It’s been a long haul, but I believe the result is a fiscally sound, bipartisan budget we can all be proud of.”