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Republicans in the House of Delegates and Democrats in the state Senate released their proposals Sunday for the next two-year budget as well as an update to the current fiscal year. They both prioritize education in their proposals but differ on tax cuts.
The chambers differed in their priorities, especially in the areas of education and tax cuts – Governor Glenn Youngkin recognized this in a statement he released Sunday. “As we look at the budget proposals released today, it is clear we have a lot of work to do before the March 12 deadline to complete Virginia’s two-year budget,” he said. “While it does not include nearly enough tax relief, the Senate budget proposal also includes common sense, bipartisan priorities on which we can find common ground. I know Senator Howell and Senate Leadership are eager to work in good faith on these and other important priorities.”
House Republicans want to cut taxes but Democrats in the other chamber don’t appear to be on the same page. The GOP proposed $5.3 billion in tax cuts with a public school investment of a little more than $2 billion.
“We approached this budget intent on spending not just because tax revenue was available, but based spending choices on what is needed. As Warren Buffett once said, ‘Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Barry Knight. R-Virginia Beach. “This budget focuses on ensuring a structurally sound foundation for future growth, providing tax relief, and maximizing our reserves before undertaking new initiatives.”
Senate Democrats proposed a $2.7 billion investment in public schools – they applauded the advancing of their budget in a statement saying that their proposal “contemplates first taking care of the people who take care of Virginia’s families: healthcare workers, teachers and school support staff, mental health professionals, and state and local employees, to name a few.,” Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Janet Howell said on Sunday. “Making sure every child receives a quality education and every adult can prosper requires our investment for a stable future in Virginia.”
Majority Leader Dick Saslaw put a lot of emphasis on improving the commonwealth’s workforce in a statement released Sunday. “Virginia’s economy is recovering, and the Senate budget presented today will help the Commonwealth continue on a positive trajectory,” said Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. “We also must provide educational opportunities to prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future, such as clean energy employment and high-demand jobs like nurses and educators. Strategic investments in workforce development along with minimizing student debt strengthens the formula for creating the skilled pipeline of workers Virginia needs going forward.”
House Republicans touted tax cuts, their investments in law enforcement, and potential school construction and modernization funds. They are proposing using $500 million to gain access to $2 billion for school construction and modernization bonds. The proposal uses nearly $300 million from general tax revenue and another $200 from the literary fund as leverage for the bonds.
“It puts taxpayers first, doubling the standard deduction and ending the regressive grocery tax. It also funds tax rebates for every Virginian who files an income tax return,” said Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert. “It also provides well-deserved raises for law enforcement, an enormous investment in repairing our crumbling schools, as well as a record payment toward future state pension obligations. This is a common-sense budget that meets the needs of all Virginians.”
Democrats in the Senate proposed a one-time $500 million school construction fund. They also want to lift the cap on support staff in schools, providing hundreds of millions in new funding for localities to allow for additional staff like school counselors, nurses, and behavioral specialists. “This ensures that the commonwealth is recognizing more of the actual costs to provide students and instructors with the necessary supports, so students can be prepared to engage in learning,” the Senate Subcommittee on K-12 Education wrote in their recommendation of the proposal.
House Republicans proposed limiting tuition increases at public colleges and universities at 3%, a reversal from the previous two years in Virginia. This drew pushback from individuals who just recently applauded Governor Youngkin’s comments about supporting a tuition freeze.
“It is disappointing that the House of Delegates has softened their stance on a tuition freeze this year despite the significant amount of new funding they are proposing for colleges and universities,” said Stacie Gordon, director of policy and advocacy at Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust. “In 2019 and 2020, the House supported $52 million and $80 million, respectively, in new funding for institutions that froze tuition. But this year, despite proposing a whopping $240.3 million in new funding, they want to allow tuition increases up to 3 percent. Governor Youngkin had the right idea when he said, ‘you can grow universities without growing tuition.’ Coming out of a pandemic, students and families should not have to spend more for the same education, especially if universities receive a substantial boost in state support.”
Both chambers still need to approve their proposals with a vote on the full floor. Then, legislators from each chamber will have to confer to come to an agreement on the same proposal for approval.
Youngkin remains hopeful that compromises can be found.
“Despite the major differences outlined today, there’s a clear path forward,” the governor said Sunday. “The extraordinary financial position we are in means we can provide this much needed relief to families and businesses while still delivering a record investment in our students, teachers, and schools, standing up for law enforcement, making urgent investments in behavioral health, and doing more to strengthen our workforce and economy. The idea we have to choose between tax relief and our shared priorities is a false choice.”
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