Governor Youngkin promises investments in education, lower taxes during first address

Gov. Youngkin addressed the joint assembly for the first time since assuming office.
Gov. Youngkin addressed the joint assembly for the first time since assuming office.(NBC12)
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 11:53 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2022 at 11:24 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Glenn Youngkin wrapped up his first address outlining his vision for Virginia since assuming office, speaking to the General Assembly.

Youngkin started his speech describing Virginia as a state plagued by fractured politics, drug and health crises, and rising costs for food and housing. Still, he says his administration is equipped to solve those problems.

“With current and projected tax-driven surpluses, we can lower the tax burdens on Virginia families and make crucial investments in those critical pillars to a great Virginia,” Youngkin said. “The promise of a lower cost-of-living, excellent schools, safe communities, a rip-roaring economy that lifts up all Virginians, and a state government that works for Virginians.”

The first phase of the governors’ plan will begin in the classroom. Youngkin says he plans to sign off on a budget that reflects increased investment in education, which means higher standards of learning for students and increased teacher pay. Youngkin says he’s also seeking a $150,000 investment for up to 20 new charter schools.

“Whether they’re called charter schools, lab schools or schools of innovation, it doesn’t really matter,” Younkin said. “I don’t care what we call it; I just care that we do it.”

He says bringing high-speed broadband will also be a promise he intends to keep for Virginians living in rural areas.

“We’re not only bringing jobs, but we’re also bringing high-speed broadband,” Youngkin said. “Every governor for the last decade has stood in this chamber and told you that rural broadband was a priority; this time, we’re going to get it done.”

Youngkin also wants to open up Virginia’s economy by making sure projects at the state ports and highways are completed.

Youngkin said he’s also taking a firmer stance on crime and inefficiency in state agencies. On Saturday, one of his first acts as governor was to fire the entire Parole Board.

“I asked Attorney General Miyares to begin an investigation into what happened there,” Youngkin said. “The violations of law and the Constitution, the unconscionable refusal to notify families of victims about pending decisions to release murderers were simply unacceptable.”

For months, Youngkin has stated that he will be taking a fact-based approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic. During his address, he promised that the days of lockdowns and mandates were coming to an end in Virginia. During his speech, the governor encouraged Virginians not only to get vaccinated but also to get boosted.

“Our fight against COVID-19 will move forward based on this simple principle: We will protect lives and livelihoods. That means no more mandates and no more shutdowns. As I said on Saturday, it means Virginia is open for business,” Youngkin said.

Despite this, he promised never to enforce a mandate requiring vaccination even for healthcare workers in medical settings. The governor also signed an executive order that would give parents a choice to opt their kids out of masking in schools. Youngkin says the decision was a matter of individual liberty, a move that Democrats immediately criticized.

“We must do everything we can to safely keep our kids in school. Democrats worked hard to ensure all 132 divisions were open for in-person learning,” House of Delegates Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn said. “Governor Youngkin’s day one action to move mask requirement is irresponsible and put all that in jeopardy. His decision will only serve to prolong this pandemic.”

Senate Democrats say they are skeptical of Youngkin’s plans for education and that while his goals sound good on paper, they lack clarity.

“Governor Yougkin was very vague on what the details of his education plan would be. We’re all ears. We want to keep moving in the system forward,” Senator Barbara Favola said. “I would like to be the first in the country in terms of education, but we are committed to ensuring that every child has an opportunity in receiving an education they can embrace and succeed with.”

Filler-Corn also expressed concern that the governor’s efforts to find funding for Charter Schools could take away much-needed funding for the public education system.

“Over the past two years, Democrats have included a record 2.3 billion in additional education funding in the budget that it put before the General Assembly,” Filler-Corn said. “If Governor Youngkin is serious about improving education, he needs to leave that funding in place,”

Youngkin says he looks forward to working with those across the aisle despite the opposition.

“I’m inspired to be working with you to build a future of limitless opportunity and strengthen the spirit of Virginia,” Youngkin said.

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