Tax Relief

Richmond report: Tax relief, funding hikes a uncommon finances | columnists

What happens each week when you go to buy groceries, fuel for your vehicle or other necessities? You pay higher prices.

While many families are struggling with rapid inflation and high costs, Virginia is flush with taxpayer revenue. That money has come from taxes paid by you, the citizens.

Seeing more tax dollars collected before leaving office, Gov. Ralph Northam introduced a budget that included a general fund spending increase of $10.3 billion. For comparison, in 2020 the introduced budget contained $2.7 billion in new general fund revenue, and that was seen as solid growth that allowed for new investments.

Rather than launch such a huge increase in state spending, now is the time to cover funding priorities. Then allow Virginians to keep more of their hard-earned dollars. The house budget does just that. It is structurally sound, makes record investments in education and law enforcement, while providing substantial tax relief to hardworking Virginians.

The House Budget includes tax relief totaling $5.3 billion that will benefit low- and middle-income Virginians the most. This package would provide:

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a tax rebate check to Virginians this fall,

a doubling of the standard deduction on Virginia income tax,

an elimination of the tax on groceries,

a freezing of the latest round of gas tax increases for one year,

a targeted relief to veterans in their military retirement pay and

a deduction for teachers that use their own resources to buy supplies for their classroom

Even with those tax cuts, we are able to fund important priorities.

The House budget is the single largest appropriation for K-12 education in Virginia history. It includes over $2 billion in new investments above the last biennium. This includes funding to provide state support for divisions that have been staffing schools with positions beyond the baseline Standards of Quality requirements — to support principals, assistant principals, reading specialists and others. We also have crafted a school construction rebate program that will leverage $2 billion in new school construction activity to address crumbling school buildings. For perspective, $2 billion would fund 80 new elementary schools.

Our community-based safety net for our most vulnerable citizens — the disabled, those with mental health and substance abuse issues — in many respects is in crisis mode. The House budget moves us in the right direction. A budget amendment was introduced to provide substantial rate increases for those who provide services to individuals in their home and community. Funding was redirected from our state institutions to invest in the important work and staff of our Community Service Boards. The boards are the frontline public service provider for substance abuse and mental health services in communities throughout the Commonwealth. The budget includes funding for an additional 1,200 waiver slots for those with disabilities.

Across the board this budget provides 4% raises each year for our state employees and state-supported employees, such as our teachers. In addition, a 1% bonus each year is also included.

There are also additional investments targeted specifically to our law enforcement to increase starting pay for our state police and sheriff’s deputies, as well as compression adjustments for existing law enforcement.

On the subject of public safety, the budget includes $5 million for Operation Ceasefire, a program to make available in communities across the commonwealth. This program has proven results and tackles gang violence, homicides and gun violence head on by targeting those that most frequently perpetrate these crimes.

This budget finally eliminates the accelerated sales tax that was started during the great recession as a budget gimmick to “find” some additional revenue. This is an unnecessary hardship on small and mid-size businesses, and it is past time to eliminate it. This budget fully funds the agriculture best management practices needs assessment to ensure we are on track to meet our 2025 Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals without the need for heavy-handed mandates on our farmers.

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