Richmond’s Skinny Budget: Low Stakes Poker, High Stakes Rhetoric

by Shaun Kenney

Virginia’s General Assembly managed to pass the Richmond equivalent of a continuing resolution to fund the government until Senate Democrats and House Republicans can hammer out a compromise on corporate tax breaks.

One will have to pardon me for not getting terribly wound up about tax breaks for corporations while small businesses and working families are struggling with back-to-back  years of 9 percent inflation from Washington.

Meanwhile, much of the damage done by the Northam administration with regard to Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) requirements, gender ideology, and the long litany of progressive efforts to remake Virginia were left both untouched and unchallenged.

Even school choice — the marquee legislation championed by Lt. Governor Winsome Sears — was left to die in committee.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are promising a “brick wall” against House Republicans until they get what they want — in other words, reneging on the pledge from conferees to honor a $950 million tax cut. The stopgap fixes the $200 million shortfall snafu created by the Virginia Department of Education’s spreadsheet, puts another $25 million into the Virginia Retirement System, and another $100 million towards cost overruns for existing building infrastructure. What mystifies most is that the Senate Democrats haven’t been precisely clear on what they want beyond platitudes for higher salaries for bureaucrats, public education, higher education, etc.

The Senate Democrats just aren’t negotiating in good faith. By denying Governor Glenn Youngkin a win on the budget, the self-styled defenders of democracy are merely hijacking the process until they bleed House Republicans out in the public square, threatening a shutdown in July during campaign season and setting up the choice in November between “full funding” for government vs. greedy corporations and their shills.

False rhetoric, but useful, which masks the fact that Senate Democrats are willing to tolerate ineffective and bad government (for a time) provided the public blames Republicans and returns power back to Democrats.

Of course, there is little Republicans can do unless we have majorities in both the House and the Senate. Yet, as this year reflected all too painfully, Republican majorities do not translate into conservative majorities. Meanwhile, on the left, Democrat majorities seem able to deliver progressive results despite their liberal leadership on matters they care about.

I suppose progressives just want it more than we do. Which is unfortunate, but the state of play nonetheless (until we start giving a damn about it).

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. This column first appeared in The Republican Standard and is republished with permission.