Virginia’s divided part-time Legislature, unable to reach an agreement on a budget, opted to adjourn Saturday and reconvene later at the call of the governor to finish the year’s work.
Both chambers agreed to a resolution Saturday that allows the budget bills and a wide range of other measures that were still being negotiated to be carried over to a special session.
“We’re going to let everybody take a take a day or two and put our heads together on Monday or Tuesday and get back with everybody next week on a specific schedule,” Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin told reporters. “But we’re going to keep things moving. We’ve made good progress.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House passed their respective spending plans in February, and a conference committee has been meeting to negotiate a compromise to send to Youngkin.
The House and Senate budget bills for fiscal years 2022-2024 contained some similarities, including raises for state and state-funded employees and hefty deposits to the state’s reserves and retirement system. But they were about $3 billion apart on tax policy, which also resulted in differing allocations to certain government services.
Del. Barry Knight, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said Saturday that negotiations had been cordial so far and progress had been made toward a compromise.
He said a key sticking point was what to do with the standard income tax deduction — Youngkin and House Republicans want to double it, Senate Democrats and at least one Senate Republican want to study the implications of doing so.
Knight also said no agreement had been reached yet on how to handle reducing the grocery tax. The House budget called for its full elimination, while the Senate version rolled back only part.
Democrat Janet Howell, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee chairwoman, said in a statement that budget negotiators from her chamber “will work to maintain the original Senate budget funding to invest in the futures of Virginia’s students; provide health resources, particularly behavioral care, for everyone in the Commonwealth; and assure economic strength for every family.”
Youngkin has said the Senate budget doesn’t include nearly enough tax relief for Virginia families struggling with inflation and surging gas prices, a message he reiterated Saturday.
“Gas prices are up, grocery prices are up, cost of living is up all over. And it’s been that way for a long time. … We’ve got to get taxes down,” he said.
Saturday had been scheduled to be the final day of the year’s regular session, and it didn’t become clear until late in the afternoon how lawmakers were going to proceed.
Besides the budget, several other high-profile items remained unfinished at adjournment. Lawmakers will be able to take them back up when they reconvene in Richmond.
The two chambers, which sparred throughout the session that began in January over various appointments, did not fill two spots on the Supreme Court of Virginia. And a number of bills, including a measure intended to lure the NFL’s Washington Commanders to Virginia, did not cross the finish line.
House Speaker Todd Gilbert said his caucus would have preferred to stay until the work was finished.
“We hope that that they are willing to come back to the table very shortly and that we can get closer to an agreement,” he said.