Amid rising bickering, Virginia’s House and Senate to unveil budget proposals

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RICHMOND — The Senate and House of Delegates’ respective appropriations committees are set to unveil their budget proposals on Sunday.

Much of the negotiation over the final budget is done in secret. But the budget documents released Sunday will represent the starting point for negotiations — showing which spending priorities each chamber supports, and which of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposals may be destined for the cutting room floor.

The General Assembly is tasked this year with passing a two-year state budget. Democrats narrowly control each chamber, meaning compromise with the Republican governor will be required.

However, it’s been a testy week between the two parties.

One major item on Youngkin’s budgetary wishlist is the creation of an arena and convention center — and Sen. Louise Lucas has signaled she’ll use it as a bargaining chip. The Portsmouth Democrat chairs the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Lucas used her position as chair this week to stonewall a bill that would have created the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority, a political subdivision tasked with financing $1.5 billion in bonds to pay for construction of the sports complex.

“The governor refuses to negotiate and simply believes this co-equal branch of government should rubber stamp the Glenn dome,” she said.

Youngkin reached a tentative deal in December with the parent company of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals to move those teams from D.C. to Northern Virginia. The plan, which needs funding to develop a $2 billion sports and entertainment complex in Alexandria, requires the legislature’s approval.

While the House passed a stand-alone arena bill, that measure will also be sent to Lucas’s Senate committee now that it crossed over. With Lucas blocking the bill from being put to a vote in committee, the only other avenue for the arena project is through the state budget negotiations.

Lucas’s move came after Youngkin slammed Democrats during a speech at Washington and Lee University.

“Today’s progressive Democratic party does not believe in, nor do they want, a strong America, an America with no rivals,” Youngkin said. “They are content to concede, to compromise away, to abandon the very foundations that have made America exceptional.”

Lucas quickly shot back on social media.

“This is the speech he gives while wanting us to compromise with him and give him the Glenn Dome?!” she wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Lucas has identified several measures, including toll relief and increases to minimum wage, as among her priorities.

Republicans and Democrats in the House have also been exchanging barbs and blows this week.

On Monday, the parties clashed over a bill from Republican Del. Tim Griffin. Democrats put the bill, which would have blocked state funding from being spent on abortion under any circumstances, on the floor to get a recorded vote on the controversial issue.

Republicans acknowledged the bill went too far and chalked it up to Griffin being a freshman lawmaker. They pushed to amend the bill on the floor, but House Speaker Don Scott, a Portsmouth Democrat, ruled the bill had to be voted on in its original form.

House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert then unsuccessfully challenged Scott’s ruling — a rare move.

On Wednesday, Scott removed two Republican delegates from their committees, including Virginia Beach’s Barry Knight.

Knight was a longtime member and former chair of the House Appropriations Committee. He was moved to the House Transportation Committee.

Scott has not said publicly what prompted the removal. But Knight speculated it could be retribution for the abortion bill dustup.

On Thursday, partisan conflict continued when the Republican Party of Virginia took a nasty swipe at Scott on social media. The RPV attacked Scott over his decades-old federal drug conviction and accused him of supporting legislation to “cut breaks for dealers” because of his past.

The post, however, drew harsh criticism from other Republicans, including Gilbert and Youngkin. It was later deleted.

The purpose of a state budget is to divvy up funding among government agencies. But in many instances during past legislative sessions, it was used to pass legislation that had otherwise died in the General Assembly.

Katie King,