Opinion — Budget is a political document

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, December 23, 2021

Governor Ralph Northam produced his budget swan song last week, presenting his spending plan for the next two years to the Joint Money Committees.

It is, at its core, a political document that Northam hopes will make Virginians forget about the worst parts of his administration.

As always, the House will review and revise the Governor’s proposed budget.

Thursday’s budget announcement by Governor Northam was interesting, as many of the ideas could have been taken from a Republican press release.

This budget is a political document designed to do two things – paper over the damage to Governor Northam’s legacy done by his blackface debacle and hamstring the incoming Republican legislative and executive teams.

Northam has been touring Virginia, announcing items in his budget and highlighting other ‘achievements’ from his administration.

What he has failed to mention is that the first half of his administration oversaw rapid economic growth and investments in education thanks to Republican leadership in the House.

The ‘accomplishments’ of the second half of his term were made possible by the sound fiscal management of Republicans, who left the Commonwealth in good order when Democrats took control in 2020.

On the policy front, it should be noted that Northam’s grocery tax cut – which he mentioned during the 2017 campaign but then never mentioned again – was only introduced after Republicans ran on the idea and won.

Republicans plan to bring Virginia’s income tax laws into conformity with Federal law, increasing the standard deduction, putting more money back into the hands of working families.

The $250/$500 tax rebates suggested by Northam are a good start and will be considered in due course. Republicans passed a $220 per couple tax rebate in 2019 as part of the second largest tax cut in Virginia history.

Other measures, such as his raise for teachers and law enforcement look good on paper, but don’t consider the part of these raises that would be borne by local governments.

Republicans will work with Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin to craft a budget that gives our educators and law enforcement the support they deserve without putting a huge unfunded burden on localities.

The fact that Northam felt compelled to include several ideas championed by Republicans is proof of just how much things have changed in Virginia since he took office.

This budget, like any other budget, will be subject to the legislative process, and it will be Governor Glenn Youngkin, not Governor Ralph Northam, who will eventually sign it.

The past is past, and there’s nothing Ralph Northam can do that will erase his blackface scandal, his moonwalking news conference, support for Democratic attacks on law enforcement, failure to denounce rioters and arsonists, and poor handling of the COVID pandemic from their place in history.

As reporters like to say, those things are “in his obituary,” and no last-minute budget proposal will erase them.

Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert gave the following statement:

“House Republicans will work with the incoming administration and our colleagues in the Senate to ensure Virginia budgets responsibly. The excess revenues Virginia is currently experiencing are not guaranteed and the General Assembly must budget accordingly. I am pleased that Governor Northam’s final budget proposal seeks to fund a number of initiatives that were proposed by Republicans just a few months ago, including tax relief and helping localities repair crumbling schools. That being said, the final budget produced by the House of Delegates will contain tax relief for all Virginians, proposals to keep Virginians safe, ease the burden of higher costs due to federal government inaction, and additional priorities Republicans championed during the 2021 campaigns.”

With Christmas Day approaching this Saturday, we take time the to reflect all the wonderful blessings the Lord has gifted for us and our families. I hope all have a Merry Christmas and get to be surrounded by as many loved ones as you possibly can.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.