Leahy: Three Things to Watch in Virginia

It’s quiet in Virginia politics right now. Verging on the quiescent. Though that’s good for Virginia as a whole. Everyone needs a break from politics now and then. But the current mood masks what’s simmering just below the surface on the state budget, the redistricting lawsuit and the midterm congressional elections.

Let’s take the dull-as-ditchwater but politically important state budget first. The General Assembly left town with its work in this issue unfinished. We’ve been told House and Senate negotiators were close to an agreement on how much the state will spend and how much tax relief Virginians can expect, but not much else.

There are now a few whispers that an agreement is near. According to reporting in the Roanoke Times:

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, and Del. Joe McNamara, R-Roanoke County, said the General Assembly expects to be called back to Richmond sometime near early June to approve a two-year state budget and vote on a few final bills remaining from winter’s lawmaking session.

We are told to expect a “very good budget” that should include “meaningful tax reduction.”

No specifics, but at least we’ve got a general date for action on the record. That’s a good thing. The details matter, of course — Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and House Republicans are pushing for the elimination of the state’s grocery tax as well as a substantial — but not inflation-protected — increase in the state’s standard income tax deduction. The GOP needs a win on tax cuts, an issue it used to own but purposely abandoned over the years. As for Virginia Democrats, they need a tax-cut win, too. With the commonwealth reaping enormous tax revenue, saying “no” to broad tax relief isn’t just tone deaf, it’s politically damaging.

Speaking of political damage: Paul Goldman’s redistricting lawsuit is still pending before the U.S. District Court in Richmond. In a text message, Goldman lamented that it had been “325 days without any final procedural or substantive decision” in his lawsuit, filed last June.

As infuriating as the delays have been — recall that the 4th Circuit decided the 1981 Cosner v. Dalton case that required special House of Delegates elections to correct a redistricting issue was decided in just two weeks — the current crop of Virginia pols is still uneasy the court might yet decide elections must occur this November. Good. Here’s hoping the court decides to take their discomfort level to 11.

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