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Youngkin signs state budget, discusses lab schools and health commissioner

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin stands at a podium in front of an American flag, and gestures with his fingers pointing. A television camera screen in the foreground has the same image.
Steve Helber/AP
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, at podium, gestures as he speaks before signing the budget bill at a ceremony at a grocery store Tuesday June 21, 2022, in Richmond, Va. The Virginia General Assembly passed the budget earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Governor Glenn Youngkin has put his signature on the state budget Tuesday after months of debate, negotiation, and legislation. Youngkin touted tax cuts and education funding at a campaign-style event.

Coming out to an excited crowd to “Spirit in the Sky,” Youngkin stood before signs that read “Getting it done together.”

“We want to be a commonwealth of opportunity. And it's happening,” he said. “Getting it done together, we’ve enacted historic tax cuts. Together we made record investments in education and public safety.”

Youngkin said he got $4 billion in tax cuts, while he sought $5 billion.

The first-time politician got much of what he wanted from legislators in the way of a budget, but not everything, he said.

“And so we are going to go back in January and get the rest,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do. But it is a big step in the right direction.”

Youngkin paid special attention to sketching out his future plans for one of his main policy goals, the expansion of school choice and charter schools, despite legislative results that put the long-term feasibility of his education agenda into jeopardy.

Democrats in the legislature resisted the charter school plans, arguing that it would take funding away from public schools. Legislation to expand and fund which institutions could start “lab schools”, which are a type of charter school run by a university, failed to pass the General Assembly.

Youngkin then asked legislators to pass it through the budget.

While two of his amendments on lab schools easily passed the Republican-led house, Republican Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears had to break a tie in the senate in order for lab schools to be expanded beyond universities with a teacher education program.

Democrats successfully blocked an amendment that would allow funding to follow students from school divisions.

“The 100 million dollars that’s in the plan, I think is not sufficient and so we’ll go back and ask for more next year,” he said to reporters. “But right now this is great start-up capital to allow us to get moving.”

Youngkin didn’t say whether an earlier invitation for specific charter school design proposals had been submitted, but said that is the next phase of his plan.

“I expect this next bit over the summer and as we head into the school year to be very, very busy.”

Youngkin also said he has not made a decision to replace state Health Commissioner Colin Greene. Greene has come under fire for comments that seemed to deny racism's role in health outcomes, particularly in regards to maternal health.

Youngkin focused his criticism on Greene’s communication rather than the substance of the comments in a Washington Post story published last week, saying that addressing the maternal mortality gap has been an early priority for the administration.

“I know he believes this message. I know he knows this message and he was just ineffective in communicating it,” he said to reporters after his budget speech. “We believe that these outcomes are absolutely unacceptable. We're gonna go to work to close them. This is all about access. This is to make sure that black mothers have access to the right medical care that the prenatal care that they deserve to get, they have access to.”

Youngkin said he spoke to Greene about the comments.

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

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