Jun 9, 2022 - Politics

Youngkin eyes more budget tweaks

Photo illustration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Robb Hill/Washington Post via Getty Images

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is weighing an array of amendments to the state budget that lawmakers sent him last week, including measures cutting the gas tax, advancing lab schools and delaying the early release of thousands of state prisoners.

Why it matters: The state budget represents Youngkin's last chance this year to advance some of his administration's top priorities.

  • The document is the result of months of negotiations between Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, and with a July 1 deadline nearing, lawmakers had urged him to sign it without changes.

State of play: Democrats had rejected Youngkin's proposed gas tax holiday, instead pushing a plan to send relief checks to state residents.

  • His proposal to jump-start the creation of lab schools by allowing them to operate in partnership with private businesses also appears doomed.

Yes, but: He could revive both measures by sending line amendments back to the General Assembly.

What they're saying: In a statement to Axios Wednesday, Youngkin's press secretary Macaulay Porter said the governor is still reviewing the budget, but highlighted potential action on the gas tax.

  • "He is continuing to look at all options and how gas relief could be included in the budget," she said.

Some Republicans, including state Attorney General Jason Miyares, are also urging Youngkin to send down a budget amendment delaying the early release of 4,200 state prisoners this summer.

Details: The change would prevent a 2020 law to reward prisoners for good behavior from going into effect.

  • Unlike the state's old early release program, which capped good-behavior credits at 15%, the new program could cut as much as 50% off of a prisoner's sentence depending on the length.
  • To get the maximum time off their sentence, a prisoner would need to have a virtually perfect record and participate in all available rehabilitation programs.

Miyares, who ran on a tough-on-crime platform, tells Axios he believes the policy will lead to rapes and murders and that he is urging Youngkin to suspend it.

  • The policy's supporters, including Shawn Weneta with the ACLU of Virginia, accused Miyares of fear mongering, telling Axios the Department of Corrections' own statistics show most of the inmates would be released within a year, with or without the new law.
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