His thoughts — Lots to like in compromise budget

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022

The final product of the Conference Committee isn’t the House budget or the Senate budget. Instead, it’s a compromise that accomplishes most of our goals for the session while giving up the minimum number of concessions required.

TAX RELIEF

With billions upon billions in unanticipated tax revenue, it was clear that the commonwealth has been overtaxing its citizens. Our Republican majority made tax relief one of our top priorities, and working with Gov. Glenn Youngkin, we’re now able to deliver on most of these efforts.

This budget provides almost $4 billion in tax relief to Virginians when they need it most.

It greatly increases the standard deduction from Virginia’s income taxes, with a sunset in 2026 — going from $4,500 to $8,000 for single filers and from $9,000 to $16,000 for joint filers.

It provides a refundable earned income tax credit at 15% of the federal level.

It repeals the state share of the grocery tax, lowering bills by 1.5%.

It provides a rebate for $250 per person, $500 per couple.

It exempts the first $40,000 of veteran retirement pay from tax, phased in over four years.

It ends the accelerated sales tax gimmick that penalized retailers for years.

Virginia’s employers’ unemployment insurance taxes will not go up, as the budget replenishes the unemployment trust fund.

EDUCATION

Education is one of the major reasons Virginians gave us a new, two-year lease on the House of Delegates. Parents made it clear that they wanted things to change, but that they also wanted us to ensure that their schools had the resources they needed. This budget takes big swings at several areas:

This budget boosts education spending to record levels, an additional $3.2 billion in direct aid to education, finally exceeding the levels before the Great Recession.

Teachers and other school employees will see 5% salary increases both years, plus a $1,000 bonus.

Through a combination of grants and loans, this budget will fund more than $3 billion in school construction and renovation.

School divisions will receive $145 million over the biennium for at-risk students.

An additional $10 million will be allocated to ensure every elementary school has a full-time principal.

Another $45 million is set aside to fund resource officers in our schools via a grant program.

The budget also authorizes $100 million to launch lab school partnerships with HBCUs.

PUBLIC SAFETY/VIOLENCE PREVENTION

Public safety and violence prevention efforts have been at the forefront of Virginia’s political discussion for years.

The bill authorizes $19.1 million the first year and $27.9 million the second year in support of local police in the form of “599” funding.

The budget includes $13 million for violence prevention grants, including $2.5 million each year for the Operation Ceasefire Grant Fund.

It is important that Virginia has a solid budget since our commonwealth suffered like all other states during the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans are providing tax relief for the citizens by putting more money back in taxpayer pockets, and increased funding on education and public safety. Promises made, promises kept. The General Assembly will reconvene on June 1 to vote on the budget.

MEMORIAL DAY

On May 30, citizens gathered around the commonwealth of Virginia to pay tribute to our veterans who gave their last full measure of devotion. We will always remember the sacrifices these heroes made sacrificing their lives that we may live in a free country. May God bless them, their families and may God bless America.

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