RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Richmond’s casino dreams won’t get derailed by Virginia’s state budget deal this year.
Unlike last year, negotiators did not include any provisions in the budget to block Richmond from holding another casino vote in November – two years after voters narrowly rejected the city’s first effort.
“We did not put any casino language into the budget,” Republican Del. Barry Knight (Virginia Beach), chairman of the Virginia House Appropriations Committee, told 8News Thursday.
In 2022, the state budget included language that prevented Richmond from holding a casino referendum in back-to-back years. While no such language was added this year, Richmond’s hopes of having another vote could face a legal challenge.
Budget negotiators wrapped up the final details on revisions to the state’s two-year spending plan, Del. Knight added, after meeting this week.
The lawmakers leading the talks – Knight and Democratic state Sens. Janet Howell (Fairfax) and George Barker (Fairfax) – released an Aug. 25 statement announcing that the “major components” of the budget deal were finalized.
The deal includes a one-time tax rebate of $200 for individuals and $400 for joint filers, increases the standard deduction and reinstates Virginia’s sales tax holiday, according to their joint statement.
“We also prioritized investments in education at all levels to ensure that our students recover from pandemic learning loss and are workforce ready,” the lawmakers wrote on Aug. 25. “In higher education, we are providing additional operating support to maintain college affordability and increased financial aid to ensure access is not limited due to family income.”
Lawmakers approved a so-called “skinny” budget before wrapping up the 2023 legislative session with hopes of reaching a compromise on how to spend state funding in the fiscal year that started July 1.
But talks fell apart over Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposal for a new round of tax cuts days before the new fiscal year started, leaving key services in need of state funding, including local school districts, in limbo.
Virginia operates on a two-year budget plan, easing concerns for negotiators who stressed there was no threat of a government shutdown because the state’s spending plan was in place until the end of next June.
Knight did not provide other specifics on the agreement, which lawmakers will have to approve during a Sept. 6 special session, but 8News has been told it doesn’t include the corporate tax cut initially sought by Gov. Youngkin (R), who will have to sign off on the budget.
Richmond was one of five Virginia cities named in legislation passed in 2019 eligible to ask voters if they want casino gambling. Unlike the other four, Richmond’s pursuit of a casino project was rejected by voters when it was on the ballot.
Early voting for the Nov. 7 elections starts on Sept. 22.