Four state legislators reported on the work so far in an incomplete Virginia General Assembly session during the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s PolicyMakers breakfast Friday morning.
Sen. John J. Bell (D-13) and delegtes Dave A. LaRock (R-33), David A. Reid (D-32) and Suhas Subramanyam (D-87) also took questions from the audience.
The panel’s split reflects a split in the state legislature, with Republicans holding the majority in the House of Delegates and Democrats controlling the Senate—a split that has stymied many of each party’s efforts.
LaRock promoted the push to offer tax relief, particularly by spending down the state’s historic budget surplus. Meanwhile, Democrats pushed investing that money in Virginia, particularly in job training and attracting businesses. Reid urged taking the long view.
“If we start investing today in a teacher training program, it’s going to take four years to start producing those teachers,” Reid said. “If we pass legislation as we did a year or so ago to create the wind turbines … we can’t assume that we’re suddenly going to have wind turbines sprouting out of the ocean.”
One member of the audience asked about Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s recent proposal for a gas tax holiday—and specifically how the state could do that while still funding transportation projects. Bell said, while he agrees with the intention, gas tax breaks seldom result in lower gas prices.
“Within a day or two it quickly rebounds to the same place, so then the distributors tend to pocket that money that was going to taxes before,” Bell said. But he added there is agreement in principal on finding some form of tax relief and tax rebates.
And County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) challenged the idea that the state has a surplus, citing the money the county government spends to supplement state employees’ salaries such as in the courts and the Health Department.
“When you all talk about giving tax cuts and boast about having a surplus, in my opinion and I think in the opinion of many of my colleagues, you don’t have a surplus until you pay your bills,” Randall said. “And if you have employees who can’t make a living wage unless we compensate, you haven’t paid your bills.”
With work unfinished on the state budget and some major bills—including the proposed creation of the Virginia Football Stadium Authority—Youngkin has called the General Assembly to special session on April 4.
This article was updated March 25 at 2:41 p.m. to clarify that the county government supplements some state employees’ salaries.