Tennesseans may notice their grocery bills are a little less this month, as Gov Bill Lee announced Monday that the long-awaited suspension of tax on groceries went into effect state-wide. The governor first proposed the idea in March.
“As Americans see their cost-of-living skyrocket amid historic inflation, suspending the grocery tax is the most effective way to provide direct relief to every Tennessean,” Lee said at the time.
HENRICO, Virginia — Governor Glenn Youngkin held a campaign-style rally to ceremonially sign Virginia’s Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget. On Tuesday, Youngkin spoke from the aisles of the Tom Leonard’s grocery store where he filmed a grocery tax-related campaign ad and where he held one of his final rallies during the campaign.
“Nine months ago we were right here with many of you, and we in fact were talking about the impact that rising cost of groceries were have on families,” Youngkin said to a crowd of supporters, reporters, former GOP candidates, and current GOP politicians standing next to bins of produce.
Governor Glenn Youngkin formally received the budget on Thursday, launching a seven-day timeline to review the budget and amend or veto parts of the bill, but the current budget ends at the end of June, creating a tight timeline.
The budget with his changes must be available for 48 hours before the General Assembly votes on it.
The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee (SFAC) advanced a bill that would eliminate the state sales and use tax of 1.5 percent on groceries and personal hygiene products. In its Thursday meeting, the committee combined Senator Jennifer Boysko’s (D-Fairfax) SB 451, focused on the hygiene products, with bills from Senator Stephen Newman (R-Beford), Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), and Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) that included all groceries.
The House of Delegates Finance Committee advanced a bill to eliminate Virginia’s grocery tax and a bill to double the standard deduction on income tax; those are two key promises Governor Glenn Youngkin made in his campaign as part of his focus on “kitchen-table issues.”
HB 90, sponsored by Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke) exempts food for human consumption and essential personal hygiene items from state and local sales taxes. On Monday, Delegates Candi Mundon King (D-Prince William) and Delegate Richard ‘Rip’ Sullivan (D-Fairfax) expressed concern about how a different Youngkin-inspired tax bill would impact low-income Virginians. McNamara recalled those remarks in the Wednesday committee meeting.
Continuing his “Thank You, Virginia” tour, Governor Ralph Northam announced that his upcoming budget proposal will include tax cuts and refunds, including some similar to those Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has called on Northam to include in his budget.
“When Virginia cuts taxes next year, it should be done in a way that benefits working people,” Northam said in a Tuesday press release. “Many professionals made it through the pandemic fine, as their work simply moved online. But workers haven’t been so lucky when their jobs require close contact with other people. Some jobs simply can’t move online—restaurant workers, early childhood educators, home care attendants, and others—and we all depend on the people who do this work. Virginia can help working people by eliminating the state grocery tax, providing one-time rebates, and giving a tax break to people who are working.”
Glenn Youngkin will be Virginia’s next governor, part of a near-complete Republican takeover of Virginia’s government. In 2022, Republicans will be governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. They will also likely hold a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates, although two close races may go to recounts. However, they will not hold the Senate, where Democrats have a 21-to-19 majority. Still, if one Democratic senator flips on a vote, that would create a tie that lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears would break. Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who House Republicans nominated for Speaker, has said that Republicans do have a mandate, but he is also aware of the need to work across the aisle with the Senate.
All that gives political novice Youngkin strong Republican support to launch efforts to fulfill his campaign promises, but also sets him up for serious challenges to get his policies across the finish line. Still, Virginia governors have extensive power to set policy and funding priorities, and Youngkin will also have executive authority, which will allow him to fulfill some key promises without legislative buy-in.