Negotiations over Virginia’s budget have turned into a political ‘game of chicken.’ Will it end in a state government shutdown?

The Virginia General Assembly will reconvene in Richmond next Wednesday to consider more than 200 budget amendments proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, but it could turn out to be a partisan fight over major disagreements between the two sides.

Youngkin, a Republican, is asking the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, to drop all tax increases that were included in the budget that lawmakers approved last month.

In exchange, Youngkin said he would stop calling for tax cuts.

“We don’t need to raise taxes,” Youngkin said in an interview with WTOP. “We have plenty of money in the system, therefore let’s press forward with an agreement that we won’t raise taxes, and I will stop advocating to reduce them.”

Democrats are not obligated to go along with that plan, however.

If they don’t, Youngkin could potentially veto the budget, which would leave all sides rushing to put together a new one before the fiscal year ends June 30.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, a Democrat, said lawmakers would closely scrutinize the governor’s amendments to ensure the budget remained structurally balanced.

“The constitution says that we can take up to 10 days to consider these things,” Surovell said.

Youngkin said he thinks “we can get this done next week.”

“I certainly am hoping that the General Assembly will fully engage with me,” Youngkin said. “This is a chance for us to demonstrate that we can work together in a divided government.”

While Youngkin’s plan to build a new arena in Alexandria for the Capitals and Wizards ultimately fell through and was never included in the budget, Youngkin said that “we have got to move forward.”

“No one ever got anywhere by looking in the rearview mirror,” Youngkin said.

Longtime Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth said, despite Youngkin’s apparent optimism, both sides remain “far apart” in budget negotiations.

“I don’t think it’s going to be very easy at all to reach a deal,” Holsworth said. “I would be surprised if they have a deal next week.”

If Youngkin did veto the budget and an impasse stretches beyond June 30, Virginia would face a highly unusual situation in which it would enter a state government shutdown.

“Anybody who works for state government wouldn’t be getting paid, and local school systems wouldn’t be getting state money,” Holsworth explained, calling that scenario a “nuclear option.”

“You have a game of chicken,” Holsworth said. “We’re in a period of high uncertainty, and no one is quite sure what the next step will be.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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