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Differences of opinion on what to do with Virginia's grocery tax remain

Plastic bags in a grocery cart.
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Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on eliminating the grocery tax. Now lawmakers are debating how much of it they want to eliminate.

When you buy groceries, the state has a sales tax and your local government has the option of adding a 1% tax. House Republicans want to eliminate both of those taxes, although Senate Democrats want to keep the local option. House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight says there's no reason to keep the local tax.

"We are going to totally backfill that 1% so all the localities and the schools will be made whole, Knight explains. "So the schools are going to get exactly the same amount of money whether it's the Senate's version or my version. But this way we totally eliminate the grocery tax."

Not so fast says Senator Chap Petersen.

"It's no longer a long-term source. It's not renewable from year to year and I just feel very reticent about taking away that local tax," he says. "That 1% for localities is enormous, and I'm just not prepared to back off that right now."

Whatever compromise the House and Senate come up with will not be the end of the story. The governor can always amend the budget to eliminate the grocery tax, although then the General Assembly will have to approve that elimination or reject it.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.