Hurray for compromise

8/24/2023, 6 p.m.
Good news. Virginia lawmakers are reportedly on the verge of a budget deal that would ensure increased funding for public …

Good news.

Virginia lawmakers are reportedly on the verge of a budget deal that would ensure increased funding for public schools and mental health services, while restoring a subsidy that will protect against a projected leap in health insurance premiums.

Dealmakers from the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate are expressing confidence in reaching a tentative agreement and were only waiting to receive updated revenue numbers from Republican Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin to finalize that agreement.

What makes this so heartening is that it flies in the face of the new preference in American politics of spending more time bashing opponents than in governing for the benefit of constituents.

In Virginia, the adults are in control on the budget and are prepared to, dare we say it, compromise.

Republican Delegate Barry Knight of Virginia Beach along with outgoing Democratic Sen. Janet Howell of Fairfax exemplify the senior legislators who want to reach an agreement, rather than remaining in stalemate over the spending of nearly $4 billion in surplus revenue.

No agreement seemed possible after the House and Senate locked horns over the proposals that Gov. Youngkin advanced to further cut taxes for businesses and higher-income earners on top of tax cuts approved last year.

The House was supportive, but the Senate was opposed as it wanted more of the surplus to spend on boosting education, improving pay for government workers and upgrading mental health services.

A committee that included senior House members led by Delegate Knight and senior senators led by Sen. Howell was set up – and that’s where the deal-making is happening.

Essentially, the House had to give up its insistence on permanent tax cuts. The Senate refused to go along with it, remembering how two decades ago Gov. Jim Gilmore had nearly sunk the state treasury by insisting that the state cover the car tax that localities charged on vehicles.

The deal then was to cap the amount the state provided, with vehicle owners having to pick up the rest.

The deal now involves scrapping the Governor’s tax cuts in exchange for providing taxpayers with one-time rebates of $200 for individuals and $400 for couples of income tax they have already paid. Meanwhile, the Senate might have to shrink some of its spending proposals.

Wednesday, Gov. Youngkin said he would accept the rebates, but also added he would be back with proposals for permanent tax cuts in the next session.

This is how the legislative process is supposed to work. This is how we hope that it can continue to work in the Commonwealth.