As General Assembly begins, Youngkin asks for bipartisanship while Democrats remain skeptical of his tax proposals
Governor Glenn Youngkin delivered his State of the Commonwealth speech Wednesday afternoon. The annual speech highlighted the Republican governor’s hopes for the 2024 legislative session which started yesterday.
Youngkin offered both good and bad news about Virginia as he enters his third year in office.
One of his long running complaints? The number of people leaving the state every year. “3 out of 4 people leaving Virginia make $100,000 dollars or more. And the taxes they pay, are leaving with them,” the governor griped, suggesting it would impact the state's bottom line.
Among the good news for the governor – his effort to address covid-era learning loss. He said his All In program, which funneled millions into school systems, led to the success of one Gloucester County student named Chloe.
“In September, Chloe scored in the 2nd percentile in math," Youngkin said of the young student who was also in attendance Wednesday night. "In November, she scored in the 50th percentile. And in December, she scored in the 80th percentile.”
He also praised $20 billion he’s proposed for school funding in the next biennial budget.
On the crime front, he pushed back on any efforts to rein in guns and instead said the legislature should spend time increasing criminal penalties.
“We should also know that Virginia’s gun laws are already among the toughest in the nation," Youngkin said. "Therefore, I’m asking you: allow us to hold accountable those criminals that commit crimes with guns by lengthening and making more severe the penalties in order to keep them off the streets.”
Youngkin again pitched his plan for a new arena in Northern Virginia. He said the Alexandria-based project would bring both an NBA and NHL team to Virginia, along with $12 billion in economic activity and 30,000 new jobs.
"I am committed to working together to deliver this win for the Commonwealth. It would be a huge win, not just for the Commonwealth, but for the region and the city of Alexandria as well."
Youngkin also said the project presented no upfront cost to the state.
Democrats acknowledge conciliatory tone but remain skeptical
Democrats in the House and Senate say they are pleased to hear the governor starting out the General Assembly session with a conciliatory tone, talking about some issues that resonate with Democrats like behavioral health and child care and education.
"I also heard a tone of cooperation," House Speaker Don Scott noted. "You know, he talked about an education initiative, and he shouted out Democrats that helped him get it done in the House and in the Senate. So, I thought he was being a little conciliatory trying to make sure that there are some things we can work on."
Some Democrats are critical of the governor for repeatedly calling for an end to the car tax even though he did not include that in his budget proposal.
"I'm surprised that he keeps mentioning eliminating the car tax," Senator Adam Ebbin said. "He's had two years to think of a way to do that, and he hasn't come up with anything and he's challenging us to improvise in 60 days on how to replace billions of dollars in local revenue for education, and I wish that he'd been more of a leader and come up with a plan."
The House and Senate will be in session for 60 days, and the session seems to be starting out with the tone of both sides at least saying that they want to work together.