Today, the Virginia General Assembly adopted several budget amendments from Gov. Youngkin, who subverted the ordinary budget process by adding provisions that had been rejected by lawmakers during the regular session. Many of these budget amendments had the most detrimental impact on Virginia’s most marginalized people.
As the amendments came back to the General Assembly today for a vote, there were three to which we paid particular attention. The dust has settled on this budget with both wins and losses.
The governor’s Amendment 19 to curtail the expanded earned sentence credit program and renege on the promise the state made to incarcerated people who have worked hard to rehabilitate, was adopted by both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. This is deeply disappointing both for the incarcerated people who worked hard to come home and their families. It’s unfortunate that the General Assembly did not stand by their actions of 2020 amidst untruths and misrepresentations.
Amendment 30 proposed by the governor eliminated state funded abortion even if a pregnancy was believed unviable. This would have put an additional burden on families and people with low income who need access to state-funded abortion. Fortunately, this amendment was defeated in the Virginia Senate.
Last, Amendment 32 brought back automatic detention for people accused of certain crimes by “presuming” that they should be denied of their freedom even before they are convicted of a crime, simply because of the charges brought against them. In effect, this provision deems people guilty before being tried. This amendment was also passed by and was effectively killed by the Virginia Senate.
We thank the General Assembly lawmakers in both the House and the Senate who stood by the work they did during legislative session. The Governor and the lawmakers who voted to support his proposals should answer to the voters who expect them to serve all Virginians and put the people’s interests above political agendas.
On his inauguration day, Gov. Youngkin said that he would serve all Virginians. Yet, his actions continue to tell a different story.
Gov. Youngkin recognized April as Second Chance Month and said that “second chances are part of our own philosophy.” Yet, he attacks the bipartisan, sensible earned sentence credit program that gives incarcerated people an incentive to become better versions of themselves and work towards their early release.
Gov. Youngkin vowed to keep Virginia healthy and said that he’s committed to “creating a better future for all Virginians, and that includes refocusing health care on the whole of an individual.” Yet, through his amendment, he sent a message to lower-income Virginians that if they have unviable pregnancies, the government would not provide them with the abortion care they need and put them in the untenable position of having to pay for their own abortion care or be forced to carry a pregnancy to term – putting their health and future at risk.
Gov. Youngkin has described himself and his administration as “entrusted to protect liberty, create opportunity, and build unity for the hard work ahead.” Yet, many of his amendments sowed division and proposed policy changes that took aim at the most vulnerable. Gov. Youngkin pledges “new ways of doing things,” but he is actively reinforcing the very same inequitable systems that we work every day to fix, favoring fears over facts, divisions over dialogues, and partisanship over unity.
Virginians deserve better, and we will not stop working to build a Commonwealth where all of us belong.