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Virginia lawmakers agree to extend timeline of budget negotiations

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Virginia General Assembly said Wednesday that they reached an 11th-hour compromise with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to extend negotiations over the state budget into a special session, in an attempt to avert gridlock.

The move marks a change in course from what had been expected as recently as Tuesday and was made in an effort to reduce the tension surrounding the budget negotiations, top leaders said. Youngkin and Assembly Democrats, at odds over tax policy and other provisions of the next two-year spending plan, have spent the weeks since the regular session ended launching partisan attacks at one another and seemed headed toward a protracted standoff, which would threaten a government shutdown unless they could strike a deal by the end of June.

“Everybody’s had their posturing. We’ve got to get this done,” House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said.

Members of the part-time Assembly, who reconvened Wednesday for a short session to consider Youngkin’s vetoes and proposed amendments to legislation, voted to use a procedural maneuver to effectively scrap the current budget bill so they can start anew.

House Speaker Don Scott told reporters the decision was made in the hopes of restarting talks in a more conciliatory manner, with the goal of bringing lawmakers back to the Capitol in May for a vote on a compromise spending plan.

Democratic leaders had been saying as recently as Tuesday afternoon that they planned to reject nearly all of the governor’s proposed budget amendments. That would have forced Youngkin to decide whether to veto the bill — a move that would have been seen as extraordinary.

After last-minute meetings between Youngkin and Assembly leaders, lawmakers settled on the change in course.

Youngkin’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Later Wednesday, lawmakers were expected to begin working through dozens of other bills Youngkin returned to them with suggested changes, including a heavily lobbied measure dealing with so-called skill games, gambling machines that proliferated in convenience stores and other small businesses around the state before lawmakers passed a ban in 2020.

This year’s legislation would legalize, regulate and tax the machines, though the changes Youngkin suggested would implement far stricter limits and a higher tax rate than the version the Assembly sent him. Convenience stores around the state staged demonstrations this week, briefly halting lottery ticket sales Monday and closing for an hour on Tuesday in an effort to draw attention to the issue and urge lawmakers to reject the governor’s amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell said Tuesday that he saw the skill games bill as one of two that could face a veto override — the other being a measure that would have allowed all localities to hold a referendum on raising sales taxes to help fund school construction. That bill passed with strong bipartisan support and has been supported by school officials in red-leaning rural areas.

Virginia’s reconvened sessions can last up to 10 days but are typically single-day affairs.

Source: WSLS News 10

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