Governor Ralph Northam announced on Tuesday that he is proposing in his outgoing budget to eliminate the grocery tax, provide an income tax cut, and a one-time tax rebate for Virginians. These were pillars of incoming Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s platform during his campaign.
“When Virginia cuts taxes next year, it should be done in a way that benefits working people,” Northam said in the announcement, either referencing the large surplus Virginia is expected to accrue in the next few years, or Youngkin’s plans.
“We appreciate the Northam administration laying the foundation for these elements of the Day One game plan so that Governor-Elect Youngkin can hit the ground running on January 15th to begin executing on his key campaign promises and finish the job,” said Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin, after Northam’s revealed his plan for these tax cuts.
Northam’s supporters say this is him following through on promises from four years ago. His detractors worry that he is just trying to take credit for these ideas in the final days of his term. He also stole some thunder from Youngkin on other issues like pay increases for teachers and public safety officers, expanding broadband, and investing in HBCUs.
As for the latest announcement, Northam did post a tweet while campaigning in 2017 calling for the elimination of the grocery tax. However, during his term as governor and on the campaign trail this year when he joined Youngkin’s opponent Terry McAuliffe, Northam never mentioned it.
“Now we know what it takes to get Virginia Democrats to propose cutting taxes — losing to a Republican,” said Speaker-designee of The House of Delegates Todd Gilbert.
Mark Bergman, a senior advisor to Northam responded by pointing out that Virginia now has enough money to make these changes due to the budget surplus. Virginia is expected to have more than $13 billion in additional state revenue over the next few years.
Porter says that Youngkin appreciated Northam’s efforts, but his plans do not go as far as the governor-elect wants them to. “Governor-elect Youngkin campaigned on reducing the cost of living, fully funding our law enforcement personnel, raising teacher pay, increasing HBCU funding, expanding broadband access, and eliminating the grocery tax for all Virginians as part of his Day One game plan, Virginians throughout the Commonwealth overwhelmingly embraced those ideals. Governor Northam’s budget proposal is a step in the right direction but does not entirely fulfill Virginians’ mandate.”
The budget proposals from Northam are largely symbolic. The General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13 and a new Republican majority will take over in the House of Delegates. Youngkin will be sworn into office on Jan. 15, taking over the Executive Branch and the budget negotiations with the legislature.
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