By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seeking several dozen changes to budget legislation sent to him by lawmakers earlier this month, including an amendment that would suspend the state tax on gasoline for three months.
Youngkin also wants to provide financial support to the families of two police officers who were killed at a private college earlier this year and increase security at historically black colleges and universities. He seeks to limit the use of earned penalty credits, which allow inmates to reduce their time behind bars. And after protests outside the homes of some US Supreme Court justices in Virginia, he wants to create a new criminal offense for certain acts during demonstrations.
“I agree with the general purpose of this bill, but I am returning it without my signature with a request that thirty-five amendments be adopted,” Youngkin wrote in a statement accompanying the bill. “My amendments are primarily focused on expanding educational opportunities, protecting our communities, and making Virginia the best state for business.”
The governor’s proposals were released Wednesday night. A split General Assembly will examine them when convened on Friday.
Youngkin is also targeting three changes to the so-called “Caboose” budget, which makes largely technical adjustments to the current spending plan. The others are attached to the biennial budget that would go into effect on July 1.
The governor, who has not vetoed any part of the legislation, wrote in his statement that he hoped both houses would find the proposals acceptable so that the budget could simply be approved without returning to his desk. Neither the Democratic faction in the Senate nor the Republican faction in the House of Representatives had immediate comment.
This year’s budget process has dragged on longer than in recent years, as House and Senate leaders ticked down the clocks at their regular meeting without reaching agreement on the spending plan and a handful of other issues. The negotiators worked privately for about two months to reach a compromise that the General Assembly approved on June 1st.
This plan includes a series of tax cuts designed to help families struggling with rising inflation, including one-time rebates, an increase in the standard deduction and the elimination of the state’s share of the sales tax on groceries and personal care items. Youngkin’s proposed changes would not affect those tax cuts, which he supported.
The Republican governor has long advocated a gas tax break, saying Virginia drivers need a break. The average cost per gallon in the state is approaching $5, according to the AAA. But Democrats in the General Assembly have argued the proposal would eat away at transportation with no guarantee consumers will see much of the savings.
Under his proposed amendment, the tax of about 26 cents a gallon would be temporarily suspended from July 1 through September 30. The amendment also includes wording to limit future gas tax increases.
The governor’s change to the portion of the earned conviction credit budget would make changes to the types of offense classifications that qualify.
Youngkin also offered a change that would expand the type of colleges that can work with K-12 systems on so-called “lab schools.” The administration says this will help encourage innovation in education.
His proposal, which addresses protests, includes an accompanying amendment that provides funds to the Department of Corrections for the potential increase in prison bed space related to the creation of a new crime.
“I ask the General Assembly to ensure the safety of our state and federal judges,” he said in a press release.
Among the governor’s other proposed changes:
– $229,570 each year to provide two support posts to the office of Lt. gov. Add Winsome Earle-Sears, plus $500,000 in funding for additional security for the Lieutenant Governor’s and Attorney General’s offices.
– Language requiring that every public university and community college submit an annual report to the Secretary of Education on “freedom of opinion and information, freedom of speech, academic freedom, and diversity of thought, including related incidents and statistics from the previous academic year.”
– Funded nearly $5 million for 36 additional security positions at state mental health treatment facilities.
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