Leahy: In Virginia’s Political Transition, the One Constant Is Change
On the surface, Virginia politics are in the midst of a profound transition. It’s not just the end of Democrats’ trifecta control of state government but also the arrival of proposed new districts for members of the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation.
New faces and fresh personalities are on their way to Richmond and possibly to Capitol Hill. But looming over all this change is a constant that transcends political parties and their various ideologies: a profound contempt for Virginia voters and the rule of law.
But back to the change for a moment. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced he was baking some of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s (R) tax cuts into his final budget proposal.
Key among them: eliminating the state’s portion of the tax on groceries — a policy proposal that has been around for decades. Northam said he wants to target tax relief at “working-class and low-income families” who’ve suffered most during the pandemic. Fair enough, though Northam’s burst of generosity is long overdue.
The Youngkin press team called Northam’s actions a good start but not enough. That was far more charitable than the statement from House of Delegates Speaker-designate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), which said simply: “Now we know what it takes to get Virginia Democrats to propose cutting taxes — losing to a Republican.”
Yes, it’s all in good fun. Just as long as we forget that during their long years in the majority, Republicans failed to eliminate the tax on groceries. They memory-holed car tax relief. And they raised a host of taxes to pay for roads. And so on.
All that aside, it’s a good thing to see a Democratic governor give his Republican successor a bit of a hand on his agenda, even if it doesn’t do all the heavy lifting Youngkin wants. He’s going to have to figure out how to do the rest on his own.
There are more changes on the way through the new district maps pending before the Virginia Supreme Court. The biggest potential change could come from the 60-odd House and Senate incumbents who find themselves lumped together in new districts. One Virginia 2021 Director Liz White told the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mel Leonor: “The fact that there are so many incumbent pairs underscores how gerrymandered the maps were before and the importance of starting from scratch.”