The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Tax cuts are probably coming to Virginia, but Dan Snyder gets benched

A Capitol police officer walks in front of the Virginia Capitol as the sun rises Feb. 4, 2019, in Richmond. (Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post)
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A couple of weeks ago in this space, I wrote about three items to watch in Virginia politics. One of the big items on that list — the state budget and, in particular, the tax issues that kept lawmakers divided long past the end of the legislative session — is finally moving toward resolution.

The whispers about the General Assembly being on the verge of agreeing to a “very good budget” that would include “meaningful tax reduction” appear to be true. The outlines of the tax deal show that everyone gets a win but had to give up something in the process.

For Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), it means most of the tax on groceries will be repealed — but not the 1 percent local governments are allowed to charge. Though full repeal would have been the right and proper thing to do, doing away with the state’s 1.5 percent portion is still a win.

The personal income tax deduction is rising, too. As the Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw reported, “the standard deduction for single filers [would rise] from $4,500 to $8,000. For married couples filing jointly, it would rise from $9,000 to $16,000.”

Again, the governor gets most of what he wanted here. The original proposal was for the deduction to rise to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for joint filers. And it’s a big concession from the Senate, which wanted to study how an increased deduction would affect state finances.

The Post's View: Virginia should not pay for a new Commanders stadium

The compromise includes items only a state legislator could find appealing.

One is ending the higher deduction in 2026. A second is the inclusion of a provision that, as Moomaw wrote, “would slightly scale back the amount of relief offered to taxpayers if the state’s budget picture worsens heading into new budget years in 2022 and 2023.”

The deduction sunset was in the original House bill. That might seem like a bow to prudent budgeting. Except it’s nothing of the sort. As I wrote back in April, the sunset would take effect right after the 2025 gubernatorial election, guaranteeing that extending the new, higher amount becomes a campaign issue.

The sunset also sends a strong signal that the deduction isn’t genuine tax reform but short-term economic stimulus.

One of the more troubling items that gained bipartisan traction in the regular session was a bill that would have put the commonwealth in the stadium business with Washington Commanders football team owner Daniel Snyder.

That legislation looks like it’s being delayed — not killed outright, as it should be, but not getting any closer to reality, either. As The Post’s Laura Vozzella reported, “the delay suggests that the proposed taxpayer-subsidized stadium has become a tougher sell in Richmond than in January, when a pair of bills emerged with powerful bipartisan support.”

In normal times, such backing almost guarantees that even the most cockamamie idea can make its way to a governor’s desk. And let’s not forget that Youngkin was eager to sign a bill larded with enough taxpayer-funded incentives to convince Snyder to build his Xanadu in Virginia.

But it’s difficult, even for Virginia’s corporate-welfare friendly pols, to overlook the investigations into a “variety of allegations” against Snyder and his team.

The Commanders welfare project, then, is mostly dead. But as Miracle Max taught us long ago. “mostly dead is slightly alive.”

Meanwhile, Paul Goldman’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2021 House of Delegates elections is still breathing and inching closer to its first birthday.

Goldman, my former writing partner, filed his suit on June 28. The issue before the court now is whether Goldman has standing to sue, which means a ruling on the merits might occur right around the time the case is old enough to attend preschool.

That’s a shameful way to handle a voting rights case — almost as shameful as the bipartisan hostility to the idea that Virginia voters deserve fair and equal representation in their General Assembly.

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