RICHMOND – The Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate on Saturday afternoon adjourned its regular session without completing its work on the state’s biennial budget. Instead, lawmakers passed a resolution allowing them to approve conference committee reports on bills – including the budget – in a subsequent special session. A date for the latter has yet to be determined, but under Virginia law, the budget must be finalized at least 48 hours before July 1, when it is set to take effect.
House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, told reporters Saturday that the House was willing to go overtime, but Senate Democrats had made clear on Friday that they would not support an extension of the General Assembly’s regular 60-day session, which began Jan. 12.
Both parties are still haggling over a $3 billion gap separating their individual spending plans. Most disagreements are related to different versions of tax relief proposals – an important staple of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign platform.
Especially the proposed repeal of the 2.5% grocery tax remains a highly contested issue. While both parties support this idea, Republicans want to eliminate the entire tax. Democrats, however, only back repealing the state’s 1.5% portion of the tax, leaving the 1% benefiting localities intact.
Youngkin said Saturday that he was “encouraged” with the recent progress on the budget, and he thanked lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts. “We need to finalize tax relief, lab schools, and other bipartisan priorities including investing in education, funding law enforcement, and addressing our behavioral health crisis, among others,” the governor said in a news release. “As I said last week, it could take time to get the budget right. I’d ask that the negotiators work quickly.”
On Friday, Youngkin had also announced that February revenue collections supported the revised general fund forecast issued last month. Total general fund revenues fell 1.2% in February compared to last year’s unusually large number, as more refunds were issued this February due to last year’s delayed opening to the refund-processing season.