In what has been an exceptionally eventful session, this was a very eventful week. Legislative debate on General Assembly and Congressional redistricting, the eligibility age for purchasing tobacco or nicotine vaping products, and a proposal that would have permitted abortions up to and including the time of birth all generated headlines, both in Virginia and nationally.
As someone who has fought for the rights of the unborn since first entering the General Assembly, the discussions this week over legislation to weaken protections for unborn children in the third trimester of a pregnancy was disheartening. Learning that our Governor supports and defends legislation that would make it easier for children to be aborted through the time of birth undoubtedly shocked many Virginians; as it shocked my wife, Kim, and me.
Sadly, what the Governor expressed is not an uncommon position, just one rarely said aloud. It is, in fact, the long-held and widely accepted position of his party.
For legislators like me who believe in the sanctity of innocent human life, this was the week when everyone else learned what we’ve been up against for years. As outraged as people are about what has been expressed by those who support abortion-on-demand, now they know the stark choices they will be making this November.
This was also the week that all 21 Republican senators united in support of a plan to provide $1 billion in tax relief to Virginians. The plan we are advancing will directly affect more than four million taxpayers, providing a tax rebate this year and lowering personal income taxes next year through at least 2025.
The plan is remarkably simple. Later this year, individuals would receive a $110 tax rebate and couples would get a tax rebate for $220. Beginning next year, the standard deduction for personal income taxes will increase by 50%. An increase in the standard deduction lowers your taxable income and, as a result, you pay less in taxes.
If enacted, our plan would constitute the second largest tax cut in Virginia history. The plan returns $976 million of the projected revenue windfall created by the federal tax reform and simplification to taxpayers in direct tax relief.
The increase in the standard deduction is long overdue. While the standard deduction allowed when you pay your federal income taxes has regularly increased, Virginia’s has not. As a result, Virginians filing their personal income taxes as individuals today are allowed the same $3,000 standard deduction that was allowed 30 years ago. Under our plan, that deduction would jump to $4,500. And, couples would see their current $6,000 standard deduction jump to $9,000.
By giving this money back to taxpayers, Senate Republicans are insisting that state government live within its means. Restraining the growth of government spending is always a challenge. But, it is essential to maintaining our AAA bond rating and to ensuring the sustainability of the essential government services you expect. We’ll still have a budget that is balanced, and we’ll still have your tax dollars prioritized to providing core government services.
Like the federal tax plan, which also substantially increases the standard deduction, the goal is to not only lower your income taxes, but to make them simpler and more sensible. As a result, the bulk of the tax relief goes to working families. Ours is a tax relief plan for the many, not the few.
Taxes and the budget are likely to grab the lion’s share of headlines during the final three weeks of this year’s session. My Republican colleagues and I are ready to meet this challenge by voting for a fiscally responsible tax relief plan and crafting a conservative, balanced budget.
Uneven weather did not discourage the thousands of Virginians who made their way to Capitol Square this week. Our office had more than a few smiling faces from home stop by, including local members of Virginia 4-H, the Bedford and Botetourt Farm Bureau, Virginia Counselors Association, Roanoke County Treasurer, Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperatives, Lynchburg Area Center for Independent Living, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. We were pleased to welcome teachers from Roanoke County Public Schools, Lynchburg City Schools and Botetourt County Schools.
We’re at the halfway mark of the 2019 General Assembly session. In the week ahead, we’ll be finishing our work on Senate bills, passing our plan to amend Virginia’s 2018-2020 Biennial Budget, and begin considering House bills.
If you, your family, or a group of which you are a member is planning to visit the Capitol between now and February 23, please remember to stop by our offices in Room E604 of the Pocahontas Building. You can also contact us by writing us at District23@senate.virginia.gov or calling our office at (804) 698-7523.