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'It's not enough': Youngkin signs budgets, says he wants more

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RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin launched a new campaign on Tuesday to get everything he wanted but didn’t get in the new state budget he just signed.

In a campaign-style event at a produce market in western Henrico County Youngkin ceremonially signed the first budget of his term as governor, although the real budget bills for the current fiscal year and two-year spending cycle that begins on July 1 haven’t yet landed on his desk.

The Republican governor signaled a “day two” agenda to get the political concessions he sought on “day one,” especially temporary relief from the state gas tax.

He pointedly blamed Senate Democrats for rejecting the temporary gas tax relief three times, including twice in a special legislative session that produced a $165 billion two-year budget that includes $4 billion in tax cuts he had sought.

“Oh, by the way, it’s not everything I wanted, so we are going back in January to get the rest!” he said in a budget-signing rally at Tom Leonard Farmer’s Market in Short Pump, where he had filmed political commercials during his successful campaign for governor last fall.

“Virginians deserve a better answer from Senate Democrats than ‘no,’ “ he said.

Youngkin was working the Tom Leonard’s cash register for the cameras on Tuesday, but the governor and his staff were coy about how the commercial film footage would be used for a political outsider who has drawn national attention for defeating former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state that Democrats had declared blue.

He asserted that “the movement” his campaign had sparked is reaching beyond Virginia, especially on the signature issue of parents regaining control of what their children are taught in public schools and whether they must wear face masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“We are reminding the country every day—every single day—that parents matter,” he said to a supportive audience that crowded the aisles of the produce market, which closed temporarily for the event.

Youngkin chose the market during his campaign last year for an anti-tax message that focused on the sales tax on groceries. The General Assembly agreed to reduce the tax from 2.5% to 1%, leaving only the portion of the tax that goes directly to local governments for their budgets.

In this appearance, he touted what he called the largest package of tax cuts in state history—four times the $1 billion trimmed in 2019 in response to the federal tax reforms enacted under then-President Donald Trump. The package includes a one-time rebate of $250 to individual taxpayers and $500 for families.

Youngkin also celebrated a record investment in public education, including a pair of 5% raises for teachers, while emphasizing his push to create laboratory schools to deliver K-12 education outside of traditional public schools.

He made clear that he thinks the $100 million in the new budget for laboratory schools is not enough. He did win a concession from the assembly last week to allow private colleges and universities to partner with local school divisions to create lab schools, not just public institutions with education schools.

“A hundred million I think is not sufficient, so we’ll go back and ask for more,” Youngkin said during a news conference after the event.

Health commissioner

The governor again expressed disappointment in Virginia Health Commissioner Colin Greene for failing to publicly communicating the Youngkin administration’s commitment to ending racial disparities in access to health care services, especially for pregnant mothers.

“It has been an issue that makes me angry and continues to make me angry,” he said in response to a recent story in the Washington Post in which the health commissioner was dismissive of concerns over racial inequities in health care. “This has been a topic at the head of our agenda.”

“We’re going to go to work to close the gap because it is not right,” the governor said

Youngkin said he “has not made a decision” about whether to keep Greene as commissioner, but said he would give him another chance to better execute and communicate the governor’s health care agenda.

“He’s got to prove that he can get that done.”

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