LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin sat down with ABC 13's Pattie Martin to talk about everything in the Commonwealth from the upcoming General Assembly special session to his plans to save Virginians money when it comes to taxes.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
PM: "A little more than two months in office, tell us how that's been. Any surprises? How's that going for you?"
GY: "Well, I've loved it. And people always say 'Are you frustrated?' No, I'm having a ball, an absolute ball. I so enjoy jumping into the legislative session and working with the senators and delegates. I've so enjoyed pushing forth our agenda. The first lady and I are having a great time. I think the biggest surprise has been just how great everybody is. And I know there's political carping that goes on, but at the end of the day I've felt really supported and embraced and I'm really excited about all that I'm going to get done."
PM: "And you talk about working with lawmakers, speaking of, you've now called a special session of the General Assembly starting on April 4. What are you wanting to see come out of that? What are your hopes for that?"
GY: "A budget. It's time for a budget. And they adjourned and we talked about whether to just stay and finish the work and everybody wanted to take a break for a bit. I think our speaker of the house, Todd Gilbert, wanted everyone to stay, but I think it was a necessary moment there and now it's time for everybody to come back to work. And we need a budget. We need a budget that cuts taxes. We need a budget that invests in education, in law enforcement and in mental health. Given where we are from a financial standpoint, we expect there's going to be $14 billion more in the budget than had been expected just 6 months ago, and about $5 billion should go to tax cuts and about $9 billion can go to invest in these most important things. We'll have a record education budget, a record investment in law enforcement, a record investment in the mental health system. And yet, we can have a record tax cut as well. This is a real unique moment for Virginia, so I need everybody back. We need to get this done. I'm hoping on Monday, April 4, they'll send me a budget."
PM: "And speaking of, a big talking point right now is the gas tax, suspending the gas tax. It's a proposal that you have. There are some concerns our there that we have infrastructure, we have roads that need to be done. Are we going to be losing money if we take this money away?"
GY: "Like we have in our state budget. In our Commonwealth Transportation Fund, we have about $1 billion more than we expected over the next two years. So, the bill that I will send down will take a little over $400 million of that and provide a one-time break for Virginians while gas prices are at these all-time highs. And as we head into the summer and we're coming out of Covid, the last thing we want is for Virginians to feel this unnecessary pinch of taxes. Prices are already high enough, I mean they're running away from us. We're seeing inflation running away from Virginians, and here's a chance for us to do something with this excess money, which is to give Virginians a break. A three-month suspension of the entire tax, the gas tax. We'll phase it back in over the rest of the summer. It will come back to fund roads and those kinds of things, but we do not need that money now. We have plenty in the system. It's time to give Virginians a break."
PM: "Another tax that's been talked about a lot is the grocery tax. You want to eliminate that. Is that another concern? People saying, 'Well, there's more funding that's not coming in.' And how much is eliminating the grocery tax going to help the average family?"
GY: "Well, first of all, we're one of 13 states that tax groceries. They're basic essentials. So it is the most regressive tax that one can come up with because those who can least afford it pay the same as everybody else. So, this is in a package of tax relief. Between eliminating the grocery tax and doubling our standard deduction and going to work for our veterans and their taxes, having the largest tax rebate in the history of Virginia, this is $1,500 for the typical Virginia family in year one. At a time when we're seeing runaway inflation. Prices in the grocery aisles 10%, 15%, in some cases 20% higher than they were last year. I've seen a recent study where the average family is going to see a $2,000 impact from inflation. This is a silent thief stealing peoples' hard-earned money. And so eliminating the grocery tax is a very important part of our overall tax package. Again, there's plenty of money in the system. We will make sure the education budgets are made whole. We'll make sure there's a record education budget. And so this whole idea that this is money that's being taken away is just not true. And this is why we can cut taxes and make record investments."
PM: "A big topic this year has been mask mandates. You said the schools do not have to have these mask mandates. A judge in Arlington actually ruled against that, said several schools can actually continue to enforce that. What do you say to people about why this needs to be out of the schools?"
GY: "Well, first of all, let's be clear. What's happened over the last two years is that we've learned a lot about COVID-19 and we have, in fact, seen the subsequent variants of COVID-19 change. There have been over 1,000 variants. We talk a lot about them. But of course, Omicron is the one we all recognize. While it was very contagious, it was far less severe. And so it's time for us to give parents choice with their children. And the entire idea of my executive order -- and oh, by the way, the bill that was passed on a bipartisan basis -- was to provide parents choice. To have them make the decision on what's best for their child. This is at the core of Virginia. Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regards to their children's education, their upbringing and their health. And so this is a moment for us to recognize that. I think finally, where Virginia led over this process was given we've been working on this process over a year, we see the entire nation moving. That in fact, it's time. It's time for us to be back on a road to normalcy. It's time for us to recognize that COVID-19's not going to go away. We'll continue to see little surges of COVID-19. But in the big picture, we're moving out of this pandemic. We're moving on a path to normalcy. We've got our kids happy back in school. And if you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you don't want to wear a mask, don't. We're going to get through this by the end of summer. It's a chance for us to see Virginia wake back up. We're open for business. We're open. I'm seeing the economy starting to perform the way we hope it will. Job creation. People coming back into the workforce. This is an exciting time and it is time for us to be back on this road to normalcy."
PM: "I want to ask you, going off-topic here, but recently there's been a controversy. Two Virginia swimmers competing in an NCAA competition against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. A UVA swimmer finished second, a Virginia Tech swimmer just missed the cuts to make it to the next competition. The Virginia Tech Swimmer has written a letter saying this isn't fair. She says she supports Lia Thomas but doesn't support her being able to compete against a biological female. What are your thoughts on that?"
GY: "I agree with that. We're called to love everyone and we should. But it doesn't mean we should be unfair. And in this case, having a biological male compete against a biological female isn't fair. And I think the NCAA should revisit this whole thing. And we worked so hard under Title IX to bring women's sports up to parity with men's sports. And I just think the NCAA should revisit this in the sense of fairness."