After Democrats spent months obstructing progress and bickering among themselves, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republicans in the state legislature have now completed the hard work of forging a two-year budget for our Commonwealth. This budget makes good on key campaign promises Republicans made last year and delivers important relief at a time when Virginia families need it most.
Importantly, the budget that the governor signed makes record investments in our communities without raising taxes or fees. It creates no new debt and even adds more than a billion dollars to our rainy day fund, raising the amount in the reserve account to more than $3.9 billion. This will ensure that Virginia protects its AAA-bond rating and that future generations are not saddled with the consequences of poor fiscal mismanagement today.
At the same time, the budget delivers targeted relief to help offset the devastating effects on families of spiraling inflation and economic turmoil caused by Democrat in Washington. It provides nearly $4 billion in tax relief, including $250 checks for individuals and $500 checks for families. Additionally, the budget nearly doubles the standard deduction, increasing it to $8,000 for individuals and $16,000 for families, while also eliminating the 1.5 percent state sales tax on food and personal hygiene products.
All of these measures represent the fulfillment of Republican promises to stop over-taxing Virginians and put our Commonwealth’s historic budget surplus back where it belongs - in the hands of the hard-working men and women who for too long have had their hard-earned dollars taken by tax-hungry Democrats in Richmond.
This budget also addresses other key areas of concern for Virginians, including education, upholding law and order, and providing for our heroic veteran community. Along with $3.2 billion in direct aid to K-12 schools, teachers will receive a 5 percent salary increase in each of the next two years, along with a $1,000 bonus to help ensure that our schools retain the best educators. Additionally, the budget expanded laboratory school eligibility to schools across the Commonwealth, creating more opportunities for students to achieve to their fullest potential.
The budget also makes historic investments in Virginia colleges and universities, including community colleges and technical schools, while also taking steps to address student debt by limiting tuition and fee increases to no more than 3 percent per year. $45 million is set aside for school resource officers, part of an ongoing effort by the Youngkin administration to ensure that our schools are safe environments for learning.
Critically, the budget makes a $365 million investment in law enforcement, finally providing our police with the resources and training they need to combat the crime wave created by Democrats’ felon-first/victim-last policies. $13 million of this will go toward violence prevention grants, including $4 million each year for the Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Fund. The budget also fixes the marijuana policy fiasco left by the McAuliffe administration by creating a new misdemeanor for possession of more than four ounces of marijuana and providing the Cannabis Control Authority the power to regulate products containing THC.
Unfortunately, Senate Democrats obstructed several important measures that would’ve delivered even more wins for Virginians. Chief among these was the governor’s gas tax holiday, which would have immediately lowered gas prices overnight and provided relief to working families. As Youngkin said, every time Virginians pay more at the pump, they can thank Virginia Democrats.
In enacting this budget, Gov. Youngkin and Republicans in the legislature broke the partisan gridlock and delivered a real win for Virginians. While Democrats are trying to spin this as a victory for their party, voters in our Commonwealth know that Democrats spent every day of the legislative session branding themselves as the “brick wall” caucus and trying to obstruct progress. Nonetheless, Republicans will continue working hard to better the life of every Virginian and again make our Commonwealth a shining example for the country and the world.
Rich Anderson, a retired 30-year U.S. Air Force colonel who served for eight years in the Virginia General Assembly, is chair of the Republican Party of Virginia.