Facing a Skeptical Senate, Youngkin Enlists Virginians to Pitch Tax Cuts to Legislators

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia – The day after celebrating his first major legislative win, Governor Glenn Youngkin is anticipating a bigger battle over the budget. On Thursday, he began touring Virginia to tout his tax reduction plans and enlist locals across the commonwealth in an effort to woo legislators. He made stops in Leesburg, Chesterfield, and Chesapeake.

“Now, because we are where we are in our legislative cycle, now there’s another three weeks or so of work to be done. And I need your help,” Youngkin said at his Chesapeake stop to an audience of local politicians and business leaders.

“I need you to talk to your elected representatives. Talk to your delegates. Call your senators. Send them a note. We need to cut taxes,” he said.

Youngkin listed his top priorities: complete repeal of the grocery tax, suspend the gas tax for one year, double the standard income tax deduction, eliminate taxes on veterans retirement benefits, and give $1,500 tax refunds to joint filers. He also talked about a budget amendment to invest in mega-site readiness projects to attract major manufacturers, and a $150 million budget amendment to fund lab schools.

Republicans in the House of Delegates have already passed bills to implement Youngkin’s top proposals, and will likely pass a budget with similar priorities. Senate Democrats stand between Youngkin and enacting across-the-board tax reductions.

“I think most of the governor’s proposals are dead on arrival. We might see some small adjustment of, or moratorium on, the grocery tax. But his whole tax-cut agenda, I think, is not going anywhere,” Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Virginia Star on Wednesday.

Senate Republicans may not be wholly united behind Youngkin’s proposals, either.

During debate over grocery tax in the Senate Finance Committee on February 8, Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) said that although he’d like to see the grocery tax ended, he was worried about side impacts that could hurt people it was meant to help. He advocated for a slower approach that involves formal studies before moving forward. Later in the week, a partial grocery tax repeal passed out of the committee, but Hanger voted against it.

“This tax policy is something that needs to be generated through thoughtful consideration, and I don’t consider what we’re doing now thoughtful consideration, even though we’re flush with funds,” Hanger told the committee.

On Thursday, Youngkin closed his speech with a question-and-answer period. Audience members asked him about bringing back manufacturing to Virginia, marijuana sales, and how to make sure the tax cuts don’t impact services that help Virginians – as well as inviting him to a fish fry. General Assembly Democrats have also noted although Virginia had a large surplus in 2021, Youngkin is calling for expanded spending on education and other areas while also calling for tax cuts.

“There’s enough money to cut taxes and make particular investments above and beyond our current spending levels. So this is a unique moment,” Youngkin said.

He closed with a repeat of his ask: “There’s other people in Capitol Square that you’re their bosses, too: they’re your delegates and your senators. They need to hear from you as well. These are common-sense tax reductions.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo by Eric Burk.

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