Q&A: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin Says He’s ‘Working On’ Resurrecting Wizards, Capitals Arena Plan in Budget

WTOP NEWS: Virginia lawmakers approved a two-year budget that left out a $2 billion plan to build a new arena and entertainment district for the Capitals and Wizards in Alexandria, dealing a major blow to the project. But Gov. Glenn Youngkin now has the chance to make proposed changes to that budget.

Youngkin joined WTOP’s Nick Iannelli and Anne Kramer live to discuss his next move on the proposed arena.

Nick Iannelli: Governor, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule today. So, obviously, we have a big listenership here in Northern Virginia. And we want to get right to the question: What’s your next move with the arena plan? Now, you could potentially put it in the budget and send it back to the General Assembly. What’s your plan? Are you going to do that?

Gov. Glenn Youngkin: Well, first of all, good afternoon, Nick and Anne. Thanks for having me. What another beautiful day in the Commonwealth. Listen, this is a spectacular project and opportunity for the Commonwealth: 30,000 jobs, $12 billion of economic contribution. And on top of that, I mean, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity — two professional teams move at one time. And in addition to that, we have a great concert venue and a restaurant district that would be developed. It is really awesome.

And our next step is to first get our Senate to do the work. And of course, everybody who has spent time on this project comes away saying, ‘This is great.’ And our house of delegates in the General Assembly did the work during the legislative session, and in fact, voted for the project and sent bills over to the Senate, and the Senate didn’t do the work.

And we need to get the Senate to do the work. They’ll recognize the exact same thing that the House has, which is this project is once again a once in a lifetime economic development opportunity. But also, here we are moving two teams at one time with all of the great development around it. And it benefits the entire Commonwealth. And so we need them to do the work.

And then yes, I can include the entire project as part of my budget resubmission. And we can give it a fair hearing and a vote. And that’s what I’m working on during this monthlong period where I get to work with legislators and really explain to them why this is such a unique opportunity.

We need the Senate to engage. The House has done their work. They’ve been supportive. And I think this would be a great thing for the Commonwealth of Virginia. I’ve said over and over again, this is the best economic development project in the history of the Commonwealth. And it’s one that we should move forward on. And we just need to get the folks in the General Assembly — particularly the Senate — to dig in and recognize that

Nick Iannelli: Gov. Youngkin, did you just confirm that you’re going to put the arena deal in the budget plan?

Gov. Glenn Youngkin: Well, listen, the first thing I’ve got to do is meet with folks in our Senate and get them to recognize that when you can have a $12 billion economic development opportunity — no upfront money from the Commonwealth, no new taxes — we in fact win with the success of the project. And on top of that, it provides such a transformational opportunity, not just for Northern Virginia, but for the entire Commonwealth to fund transportation investment, particularly around I-81, to fund teacher pay, to provide toll relief for Hampton Roads. This is a great opportunity for the whole Commonwealth. And so that’s my first step. But I do have the ability to reintroduce the bill as part of the budget process. And we’ll work on getting ready to do that before the legislative session.

Anne Kramer: Governor, when governors put their stamps of approval on legislation and projects that they want to see, they usually have their votes lined up, at least in theory, and they want to know that it’s going to get done. Do you feel you were blindsided by what happened by the Democratic opposition to this plan, particularly with (Sen.) Louise Lucas?

Gov. Glenn Youngkin: Well, let me just clarify the fact that this project (is) complicated and big. And so I understand people want to understand it and make sure they are very familiar with the details. And when people have done the work, they come away saying, ‘This is once in a lifetime, we’ve got to press forward. And that’s exactly what happened in our house of delegates. They did the work, they hired outside advisers, who came in and rechecked all the math and made sure that the project could be all that it was projected to be. And the Senate didn’t do any of the work. And that to me is my big frustration, because had this bill been brought to the floor, it would have passed. And therefore my invitation — but also I believe that Virginia’s requirement — is for the Senate to do the work to make sure that everybody understands the ins and the outs of this very, very good opportunity and then give it a vote on the floor. And I believe that if all of that is done and people fully understand it, then it will pass.

Nick Iannelli: So Governor, we talked about the arena — that’s a huge deal in Northern Virginia. Let’s move on to the budget in broader terms. Can you tell us some of the more significant changes you’re proposing for the budget as you work on it here?

Gov. Glenn Youngkin: Well, at the top level is the reality that the budget that the General Assembly sent to me, incorporates $2.6 billion of tax increases for Virginians. And to be clear, we worked on a bipartisan basis the last two years to provide $5 billion of tax relief to Virginians. And that is one of the key underpinnings to the success that we have seen. Over the last two years, we were able to provide those very large tax relief budgets. But on top of that, fund record investments in education and in law enforcement and in behavioral health. And we can, again, have record investments in education, law enforcement and behavioral health without any tax increases. And I just firmly believe that that’s taken Virginia backwards, and we do not need to go backwards — we need to go forwards.

And so step one is to undo the backwards part of this budget, and not allow Virginians to have $2.6 billion of tax increases thrust upon them, with the state governments sticking their hand into hardworking Virginians pockets in a regressive way. I mean, $600 million in increased electricity bills, $2 billion taxing items and services that you use every single day — it’s regressive. We’re not gonna let it happen. But on top of that, we can still have record funding into these most critical areas. We’ve done it on a bipartisan basis the last two years, I firmly believe we can do it again. But the first step of this is making sure that Virginians don’t have tax increases imposed on them.

Anne Kramer: Governor, in the final question that we have for you: You publicly endorsed former President Trump last week. Do you think that endorsement and the timing of that endorsement is going to hurt when you come to negotiate this budget next month with the Democrats?

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin: I have always said that I was going to endorse the Republican nominee, and he became the Republican nominee. And we need strong leadership in this nation, that we recognize clearly that we have a major problem at our border. And it is it is unleashing a humanitarian crisis, a drug crisis, a national security crisis. We are projecting through weak leadership around the world, unfortunately, a world that is now embroiled in chaos. And then on top of that, we have seen inflation unleashed and not going away.

We need leadership for a secure border, a strong America around the world and a rip-roaring economy that lifts up everyone, including Virginians. And the reality, of course, is that we are seeing today Virginians living paycheck to paycheck. And of course, what does our General Assembly do? They want to raise taxes on everybody? And so it’s time for us to choose a path and I believe strongly that a path that has a secure border, a strong foreign policy and a rip-roaring economy that lifts up everyone will not only be great for Virginia, but it’ll be great for the country.

That’s why I’m going to work every day in order to deliver no tax increases, critical investment in those areas that have underpinned our success. And we look back over the last two years, we have 200,000 more people working today than we did just two years ago. We’ve had record job growth. We again have seen record investments in education and in law enforcement in behavioral health. Virginia is winning — we need to make sure she continues to win and does not go backwards.

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