VA Still Split on Wizards/Caps Arena

WTOP NEWS: The proposed home of the Washington Capitals and Wizards faces an uncertain future as budget talks begin in Virginia. The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate released their version of the Commonwealth’s budget and the chambers are at odds on the planned arena in Alexandria, Virginia.

Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman L. Louise Lucas, a Democrat from Portsmouth, has been a vocal opponent of the sports and entertainment authority needed to secure billions for the proposed arena in Potomac Yard. When she introduced the senate’s budget Sunday, it was left out.

“As a committee, I believe we have delivered on prioritizing funding for the people of Virginia,” she said during an appropriations meeting on the budget.

However, the house of delegates’ budget introduced on the same day included HB 1514 which would establish that sports authority. It passed with bipartisan support last week.

The house budget also adds around $144 million in general funding for Metro over two years. A provision many local leaders believe is needed in order to sustain the arena.

The Senate however pulled funding entirely from WMATA.

Instead, according to a report from the transportation subcommittee, they recommended “continuing the conversations around the financing of the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority in accordance with post-pandemic commuting patterns.”

In December, Metro announced that it faced a $750 million deficit for the next fiscal year and requested D.C., Maryland and Virginia to provide additional funding. Earlier this month, D.C. offered Metro $200 million, on top of its fiscal 2024 operating subsidy, to help close its budget deficit. If passed, Maryland’s proposed budget would help with the gap too.

Missing from the budget — tax cuts

Also absent from both budgets is proposed tax cuts from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

He proposed cutting income tax rates by 12% and increasing the sales tax by close to a percentage point.

“I will not compromise when it endangers the Commonwealth’s future. In the introduced budget, the governor proposed individual income tax cuts,” said Lucas. “This is not sustainable.”

The only tax reforms both budgets included for Youngkin’s proposed reform was a new sales tax for digital services such as streaming.

“As I begin my review of today’s proposals from the House and Senate it will be through the lens that structural balance matters, that Virginians can’t afford another tax increase and, in fact, need additional tax relief, and that we need to build on the work we’ve done investing in education, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and behavioral health in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a statement.

“Today is just the start, and I am confident that working together with the General Assembly we can continue the progress we’ve made in our first two years and move the Commonwealth forward together.”

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