Category Archives: General Assembly

Sales Tax On Groceries With Us Through Christmas

The food tax will still be with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas?

by Steve Haner

Everybody eats. With all the money sloshing around the Virginia treasury for the General Assembly to play with, it is hard to see the logic in continuing the state sales tax on groceries an additional six months, delaying that particular tax cut until January 1.

The inflation on everything at the grocery store means more tax revenue is coming in from that source than was expected when the initial budget was prepared last year. If they had allowed the tax cut effective July 1 rather than January 1, inflation on other items people buy (restaurant meals, furniture, electronics, clothing, non-food items) would protect the state’s spending in full (necessities and niceties.)  Continue reading

Home Price Volatility and Virginia Property Taxes

Case-Schiller Home Price Index – National

by James C. Sherlock

Housing prices have more than doubled since 2012, reflecting shortages of supply and the resulting speculation. The increasing slope of those curves above is not comforting.

Prices have soared over 20% in a year. Mortgage rates are up. What could possibly happen next? Most can figure that out.

But this article is about the effects on local government property taxes of what most predict will be extreme volatility in the housing market going forward.

How are Virginia real property taxes adjusted to mitigate the effects on both property owner tax bills and government receipts in this boom and very likely bust cycle?

We’ll look at the law. Continue reading

Progress: Standard Deduction Up 166% since 2018

by Steve Haner

First published today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Do not be surprised if, by the time the next Virginia General Assembly elections roll around, the Democrats who are now complaining about the level of tax relief in the pending budget compromise switch positions, and campaign as champions of the deal.

The two key elements – a substantial increase in the standard deduction for income tax filers and a cut in sales and use tax on groceries for everybody – are ideas with long and bipartisan histories. Only the reluctance of previous governors and General Assemblies to part with the revenue stood in their way. Both are logical, populist reforms many Democrats had also championed in the past.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute has long been an advocate for a higher standard deduction, and the proposed 78% increase from $4,500 to $8,000 per person (up to $16,000 for a couple) falls just short of the recommended 100% increase.  Remember, as recently as tax year 2018 it was only $3,000 (or $6,000 per couple) and raising it in 2019 was also a major recommendation of ours that was adopted.

This new amount will apply to this tax year. So in two steps over three years, the standard deduction has risen by $10,000 for a working couple. That 166% increase saves most of them $575 per year. Continue reading

Who Needs the General Assembly? Let the Budget Conferees Do It.

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), chair of Senate Finance and Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), chair of House Appropriations. Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Although legislating through the budget, a practice that used to be frowned upon, is not new, this year’s budget conferees are taking the practice to a new dimension.

The amendments released by the budget conferees include the following new provisions in the “General Provisions” section. In most cases, the Code of Virginia is amended. The remaining cases involve just language in the Appropriation Act.

  1. Changes to the tax code. These have become a standard practice.  This year there are provisions to increase the standard deduction, eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on groceries, increase income tax credits for military benefits, and make significant changes to the statutory  language regarding housing opportunity credits.
  2. University housing. To the extent that institutions of higher education operate student housing during breaks, requires them to allow eligible foster students to stay in them free of charge.
  3. Casino referendum. Prevents the city of Richmond from having a second referendum on casinos until November 2023.
  4. Private school. Exempts a private school from licensing requirements.  (The school was previously exempted until repeal of the applicable statutory provision in 2020.)
  5. Games of skill. Changes the definition of games of skill.
  6. Marijuana and hemp. Establishes a criminal penalty for possession of four ounces to one pound of marijuana. Changes requirements for labeling of products including industrial hemp. This is the first time that I remember the budget bill being used to amend the criminal code and impose a new criminal penalty.

Continue reading

A Gun Owner’s Suggestion for Virginia Gun Laws

By James C. Sherlock

I was a career military man.

I am a conservative and a gun owner. As a younger man, I won competitive awards for marksmanship with both rifle and pistol.

I own a semi-automatic Glock for home protection.  I train regularly and at almost 77 can still hit what I aim at.

With that introduction, I have a couple of suggestions for gun legislation in Virginia that I hope will draw condemnation from both the left and the right so that I know I have it roughly right.

I have four criteria for firearms legislation:

  • changes that can matter to the safety of children and law enforcement officers;
  • changes that can deter criminals from use of a firearm in the commission of a crime;
  • changes that do not disadvantage the average citizen’s possession and use of firearms; and
  • changes that can pass Second Amendment review in federal court.

Those are, as a group, difficult needles to thread simultaneously.  They should be.

This article involves semi-automatic long guns – rifles and shotguns.

Continue reading

Medicaid, Public Health and Chronic Disease Management

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

From the CDC:

Chronic diseases have significant health and economic costs in the United States. Preventing chronic diseases, or managing symptoms when prevention is not possible, can reduce these costs.

Virginia pays a great deal of money every year to contractors who manage the care of its Medicaid population.

It is a hard job, but even though the challenges are tough, it has appeared to me for a long time that we are not getting our money’s worth from $18 billion annually in Medicaid payments for the populations managed by these contractors.

A white paper, “Prevent Costly Chronic Disease Through Member Engagement” caught my eye as the basis for a follow up to my earlier report on public health and Medicaid managed care in Petersburg.

This is that update. Continue reading

Fix One Thing — School Physical and Electronic Security

by James C. Sherlock

I offer an apolitical suggestion. We know how to begin to fix school security.

Do it.

Step 1. Every school division has a security instruction. How many of them monitor whether that guidance is being followed? I will let them answer that.

Step 2. The more complete solution is deployment of integrated combinations of physical and electronic security systems. System integrators who specialize in school security can help with requirements definition for any facility and tailor expandable solutions to budgets. That is their business and they are good at it.

As an example of what is possible, see ADT’s integrated intrusion security and fire detection and alarm system offerings for K-12 schools.

When people say “do something”, this is the kind of solution on which all of us can agree. Do it. Continue reading

A Budget Deal Emerges

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), chair of Senate Finance and Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), chair of House Appropriations. Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports there is an agreement on the state budget. There have been hints in the news about it all week, with the General Assembly announcing that it would come back to Richmond June 1 to take up various measures. All the details will not be available until late Sunday or Monday, but the chairs of the two money committees have released the highlights.

I will defer to our tax expert, Steve Haner, to discuss the revenue aspects of the deal. It looks to be the compromise that he has said was on the table all along—some increase in the standard deduction (but not entirely what the Governor proposed) along with a refundable tax credit.

I want to focus on one surprise in the package that represents two major changes in state policy. The proposed deal includes $320 million in general fund appropriations this year and an additional $150 million in the future, contingent on revenue, to help fund the expansion of the “I-64 gap” between Bottoms Bridge near the Henrico/New Kent border and James City County. This is the project I wrote about earlier and, surprisingly to me, engendered a lot of comments. Continue reading

What the Wind Project Costs You and Who Pays

The annual revenue required from Virginia customers to finance Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind installation. It peaks at about $800 million in 2027, driving the amount to be collected on monthly bills. Source: SCC Testimony. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

If the project goes as planned, the consumer cost for Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind installation will rapidly rise to a peak in 2027 and then descend annually over the following 20 years. If it produces power for 30 years, in the final phase the revenue related to the project will exceed the remaining capital costs.

What is this going to cost Dominion’s captive ratepayers?  There is also a related but often ignored question: which of those customers did the Virginia General Assembly exempt from those costs, effectively bumping up the price to those not exempt? Continue reading

Personnel Shortages that Plague Virginia’s Health Facilities Inspection Staff in the Hands of Budget Negotiators

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most important responsibilities of Virginia state government is to inspect medical facilities and home care providers to ensure we are safe when we enter their care.

It continues to fail in that responsibility thanks to years of Virginia budgets that have consciously ignored the need for increased inspector staff and increased salaries with which to competitively hire that staff.

I have reported for a long time that the staffing of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Licensing and Certification (OLC) is scandalously deficient. Based upon an update today from OLC, it remains so.

That organization has only half of the inspectors it needs to carry out its defined responsibilities.

Those highly skilled and very dedicated people, largely registered nurses, are asked to do every day for Virginians what we cannot do for ourselves and what our elected representatives have refused for decades to properly fund them to do.

Think of that next time you use the facilities and home providers they are required for your safety to inspect.

We hope the current General Assembly budget negotiators keep it in mind for themselves and their families.

Or the Governor sends the budget back until they do. Continue reading

What’s the Governor Waiting For?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

At the reconvened session on April 27, Governor Youngkin returned 116 bills to the General Assembly with recommended amendments. Legislators accepted the Governor’s recommendations on 91 of those bills. The remaining 25 bills were returned to him as originally passed.

The Governor has three options for each of these remaining bills: sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. The deadline for him to take action is midnight, May 27.

What is the Governor waiting for? Yes, he still has 11 days before the deadline, but it was only 25 bills and he has had 19 days to consider them. He already had a folder with notes on each bill. Actually, the batch sent back included several sets of duplicate bills; therefore he has fewer than 25 legislative proposals to act on. Furthermore, he probably knew before he returned the bills which ones he was not going to approve if his recommendations were not accepted. Continue reading

De Facto Secretary?

Andrew Wheeler, Senior Advisor to the Governor

On April 15, Governor Youngkin issued a press release announcing “additional key administration appointments”.  Several of those appointments were duly noted by various newspapers and other media outlets. Others were not, although they are interesting in their own right, raising some issues and shedding light on the administration.  Because different issues are raised with different appointments, I will discuss them in separate articles.

One of the most controversial early actions of Youngkin was the appointment of Andrew Wheeler as Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources.  Wheeler had been the director of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration.  Democrats in the General Assembly were incensed, and the Senate refused to confirm Wheeler’s appointment.  Wheeler stayed on as Acting Secretary until the legislative session ended, when state law prohibited his continuing in that position.  Youngkin then announced that Wheeler would remain in the administration as a senior advisor to the governor.  Travis Voyles, who had  earlier been appointed Deputy Secretary, was designated as Acting secretary. Continue reading

Miyares Challenges Secrecy in Dominion Wind Case

The Luxembourg-flagged Vole Au Vent is seen here installing one of Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast.

by Steve Haner

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) has moved to open to public inspection much of the secret data and analysis about Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. His petition filed with the State Corporation Commission April 29 comes about two weeks before formal hearings on the application begin in mid-May. Continue reading

Virginia is the Queen Mother of Bellwethers

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn

by Chris Saxman

Honestly, where does one start in trying to explain Virginia politics?

Wednesday’s leadership change by House Democrats should not be considered shocking. Democrats had very close contests for caucus control after they won the majority, so losing that majority would naturally jeopardize their leaders.

Suffice it to say, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn has never had a firm grip on her caucus having won close leadership elections and she barely lost the vote Wednesday.

Just one vote.

Was Wednesday about the younger, more aggressive progressives making a move? Like most things in politics, it’s complicated, but Democrats nationally are losing the enthusiasm of younger progressive voters.

See my 2024 Electoral College Preview on the Democrats problem with younger voters. (AH – yes – the possible move by Joe Biden to forgive student loan debt.)

There’s more to the leadership change than age demographics. This likely came down to the simple fact that Democrats lost control of the House in November and had no clear plan to win it back. In fact, they could possibly lose even more seats this year. Continue reading

Virginia Democrats in Disarray

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn

by Kerry Dougherty

Whoa. That was quick. Unprecedented in recent years, too.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, the much ballyhooed first female Speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, as well as the commonwealth’s first Jewish speaker, was tossed overboard Wednesday from her leadership role in the Democratic caucus by fellow party members.

Five months after Republicans regained the majority in the House of Delegates and swept the top three jobs in the commonwealth, Democratic delegates gave an unceremonious boot to the woman who had headed the party for the past two years.

Filler-Corn is expected to be replaced by a man.

Of course.

The mutiny was reportedly orchestrated by two-term Delegate Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth. He gained notoriety two weeks into the 2022 session by attacking Gov. Glenn Youngkin, saying, “So far what I’ve seen from his Day 1 activities he is not someone who is a man of faith, not a Christian.” Continue reading