Editorial — Bipartisan budget good for Virginia

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, June 16, 2022

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Government gridlock can frustrate partisans on both sides of the aisle, but in a purple state like Virginia, forced compromise can sometimes lead to a good outcome.

Such is the case with the Virginia General Assembly’s two-year budget approved overwhelmingly by the House and the Senate recently after months of disagreement over taxing and spending. The $165 billion final product, now on the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, has much to like for both liberals and conservatives.

Among the highlights:

• Nearly $4 billion in tax relief, a priority of Youngkin in his first term. Combined, the tax cuts will save the average family of four some $1,100 a year.

• Ten percent salary increases for schoolteachers and other government workers.

• A big boost in K-12 education spending, including sorely needed state aid for repairing and replacing aging school buildings. Lawmakers say it would be largest K-12 budget in state history, spending $19.2B over two years, a 20% increase from the current budget.

• Hundreds of millions for widening Interstate 64 between Hampton Roads and Richmond, to which all of us who have occasion to drive that stretch can give a hearty “amen!”

• Some $1 billion to shore up the pension system for state workers and retirees.

The budget’s tax relief includes one-time rebates of $250 for individuals and $500 for families later this year. About $1.6 billion would go toward increasing the standard deduction, though not quite as much as Youngkin had advocated.

About $372 million in tax relief would eliminate the state portion of sales tax on groceries and essential personal hygiene products; $301 million would provide phased-in income tax relief for military retirees 55 or older; and $315 million would make the Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit partially refundable, The Associated Press reports. The plan does not include a gas tax holiday, another Youngkin initiative.

The partial repeal of the state’s 2.5% grocery tax was an example of compromise. Republicans wanted the tax repealed entirely, while Democrats wanted to save the 1% that goes to local governments to fund schools.

After months of squabbling and failure to adopt a budget during the 2022 regular session, this week’s vote was overwhelming. In the Senate, where Democrats hold a slight edge, the vote was 32-4. The Republican-controlled House approved it 88-7. Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, was among the handful of lawmakers selected to negotiate the compromise.

We agree with Republican House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, who said, “It’s been a long haul, but I believe the result is a fiscally sound, bipartisan budget we can all be proud of.”