Feb 28, 2023 - Politics

Virginia budget stalemate boosts Richmond's casino chances

Illustration of a man standing resolutely on top of a stack of poker chips.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Lawmakers' decision to leave town without passing a budget could be good news for the city's casino prospects.

What's happening: The budget bill was Petersburg's last chance to block Richmond from holding a second gambling referendum.

State of play: If nothing changes, Richmond is in the clear to bring the issue before voters in November.

  • Meanwhile, supporters of Petersburg's casino proposal had been hoping a final budget deal between the House and Senate would include language that allowed Petersburg to move forward instead, or at least delay Richmond for another year.

Catch up fast: House and Senate budget negotiators gave up reaching a final deal over the weekend after they were unable to reach an agreement on Gov. Glenn Youngkin's tax cut proposal.

  • The decision leaves $3 billion in new revenue unspent.
  • Both sides held out hope that they'd continue negotiating and come back this spring with a compromise.

Between the lines: It's unclear whether it's realistic to expect lawmakers to finish negotiations and return to Richmond during a year when both parties are gearing up for 140 General Assembly elections.

  • And, as House Republicans noted earlier in the session, there's nothing that says lawmakers must amend the state's two-year budget in the second year.

What they're saying: Sen. Joe Morrissey, the most vocal backer of Petersburg's casino proposal, says he hasn't written off Petersburg's chances.

  • "Hope springs eternal," Morrissey said.
  • Mayor Levar Stoney, who has been pushing for a redo since city voters defeated the first casino referendum in 2021, did not comment.

💩 Worth noting: The stalemate may be good news for Stoney on the casino front, but the failure to pass a budget would also hurt the city.

  • Among other things, it would mean the city loses out on $100 million in additional state funding to address sewage overflows into the James River.
  • It also eliminates the possibility of increased state funding for local school districts and teacher raises.

What's next: Budget or no budget, lawmakers return to Richmond on April 17 to consider any amendments or vetoes handed down by Youngkin.


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