ARLINGTON –Gov. Glenn Youngkin isn’t giving up on two potential political trophies in his first year as governor –a temporary suspension of Virginia’s tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, and a new stadium in Northern Virginia for the Washington Commanders NFL franchise.
Speaking to news media at Boeing’s new global headquarters here, Youngkin said he’s still pushing for a three-month suspension in the motor fuels tax of 26.2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 27 cents per gallon for diesel.
“It is the single biggest topic people are concerned about –the rising cost of gasoline,” he said.
Youngkin isn’t tipping his hand on amendments or vetoes he will seek in the two-year budget that requires his signature to take effect on July 1, but he appears ready for a third shot at temporary reduction in the gas tax after coming up empty twice in the Virginia Senate.
Youngkin must propose amendments and line-item vetoes to the newly adopted budgets for this fiscal year and the next two years by Thursday night. The General Assembly will take them up as early as Friday.
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The Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats, killed the governor’s initial proposal to retroactively suspend the most recent 5-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax during the regular legislative session that ended March 12. Youngkin tried again when he called the General Assembly back into special session on April 4 to pass a budget, including his new proposal for a three-month gas tax holiday.
The Senate again rejected the idea as ineffective and costly because the new proposal also would have gradually restored the tax after the three-month holiday and then capped future increases for inflation. It wasn’t part of the budget compromise the assembly adopted by wide majorities on June 1.
The governor did well in the budget deal, which includes $ 4 billion of the $ 5.5 billion in tax cuts the first-term governor sought with state revenues historically flush despite the COVID-19 pandemic. But he still wants the gas tax holiday, which would cost $ 437 million in lost transportation revenues for three months.
“We have plenty of money to pay for this,” Youngkin said Monday.
Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, who was one of the lead negotiators in the budget compromise, doesn’t see any chance of the Senate changing its position on the gas tax holiday because legislators don’t consider it an effective way to protect consumers from higher prices.
“It’s not something like that sales tax that is just tacked on and automatically is going to be part of the price,” Barker said in an interview on Monday. “If the tax is lower, the oil companies charge more. If it’s higher,” they charge less. “
Youngkin also made clear Monday that he hasn’t given up on luring the Commanders to Northern Virginia to build a new stadium to replace FedEx Field in Maryland. The stadium would be the center of a massive commercial development under legislation that its sponsors acknowledged last week is dead –at least for now –because of the franchise’s off-field controversies and the long-term cost to tax payers.
The governor acknowledged that the assembly had pulled back from the stadium legislation because of what Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, one of its sponsors, said were “issues to be resolved.”
Those issues include congressional hearings about the conduct of team owner Dan Snyder and an investigation by the Virginia and District of Columbia attorneys general into the team’s finances.
Youngkin said he’s still hopeful.
“Should these issues be resolved, I’d like to take this up again,” he said Monday.
His motivation is simple. “I’d like to have a professional sports team” in Virginia, the governor said.
Again, Barker said the stadium proposal is not likely to return to the assembly before it convenes next January.
“Before that, I don’t think so,” he said.