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Youngkin woos Virginia state senators, sees 'ample opportunity' for tax cuts
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Youngkin woos Virginia state senators, sees 'ample opportunity' for tax cuts

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Youngkin Roanoke

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, left, chats Friday with members of the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee gathered at a retreat in Roanoke, including (from Youngkin’s right) Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, chair of the committee; Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City; and Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg.

ROANOKE — Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin courted members of the Democratic-controlled Senate on Friday, introducing himself before the second day of budget meetings held by the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee.

Youngkin made brief remarks to the committee and other members of the Senate gathered here at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, honoring their commitment to public service and pledging to work with them after he is inaugurated as Virginia’s 74th governor on Jan. 15.

“I think there is an extraordinary amount we can accomplish together,” he said after Senate Finance Chair Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, introduced him at the beginning of the budget session.

Unspoken was the high stakes political maneuvering that’s already quietly beginning to carry out Youngkin’s plans to cut taxes, with one-time refunds and cuts of about $2 billion and ongoing reductions of $1.5 billion.

In a brief interview, the governor-elect acknowledged that Virginia’s soaring budget revenues will help him sell his plans in the 60-day General Assembly session that will convene on Jan. 12.

“It’s clear there has been excessive taxation,” Youngkin said after leaving the meeting.

He referred to the $2.6 billion revenue surplus in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and projections by the assembly money committees this week that the state will have billions of dollars in additional revenue to spend in the next two-year budget.

The Senate committee and the House Appropriations Committee both expect outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam to revise this year’s projected revenues by at least 5%, generating between $3.3 billion and $3.5 billion in additional state funds this year that will be replicated in each year of the two-year budget Northam proposes next month.

“This provides ample opportunity to move forward with tax cuts and the rest of our day one agenda,” Youngkin said, a reference to his campaign pledge of immediate actions after taking office. “This is exactly what we expected it to be.”

Tax relief hasn’t been discussed publicly during the annual budget retreat, but Youngkin was accompanied in his informal introductions to senators before the meeting by Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg. Newman played a leading role in shaping a $1 billion tax relief plan the assembly adopted in 2019, just before Democrats won a 21-19 majority in elections that November.

Democrats will have no margin for party defections in crucial votes next year because Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears, who appeared at the retreat for the second consecutive day, will break tie votes on legislation, except for the budget and the election of judges.

Sears was part of a Republican sweep of the top three statewide offices this month, along with Youngkin and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares.

Howell, the first woman to chair the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, made no mention of policy in her brief introduction of the governor-elect.

“I’m looking forward to working with him to make our commonwealth even better than it is,” she said.

Youngkin acknowledged that he expects “a fire hose, and the nozzle is turned on high” as he prepares to take public office for the first time after a career in the private sector that culminated as co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a large private equity firm.

But he appeared to revel in personally greeting senators from both parties before the meeting, as well as former Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, who served as a high-ranking Republican on the budget committee before retiring at the beginning of 2016.

“It’s fun,” Youngkin told Watkins outside the meeting room. “We’re off and running.”

“There is a basic tenet that 90% of life is showing up,” he added, “so I’m showing up.”

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