RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin rolled out the most sweeping policy proposal of his campaign so far Monday, a so-called “day one game plan” that envisioned substantial tax cuts, new charter schools and an overhaul of what he called “broken” state agencies.
Outlining his pitch at an event in northern Virginia, the political newcomer and former executive of a private equity firm quipped that the only thing he'd change from the current Democrat-controlled status quo “is everything.”
“We need a whole new approach to absolutely uproot the liberal bureaucracy that has taken hold of Richmond and to make government accountable to the people again," Youngkin said.
His Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, panned what his campaign called a “Trumpian tax plan,” saying it would lead to drastic cuts in public education and tank the state's economy.
“It’s no surprise Glenn has no clue how to invest in Virginia’s economy, given he made hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of working families — shipping American jobs overseas and raising rents on seniors,” campaign spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said in a statement, in reference to Youngkin's work at The Carlyle Group.
The two men, along with third-party candidate Princess Blanding, are in the midst of the nation's only open race for governor this year. Virginia's unusual off-year elections typically draw outsized national attention as a potential bellwether leading into the midterms.
Current Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam cannot pursue a second consecutive term, and McAuliffe is seeking a rare return to office after preceding Northam.
While Youngkin cast his proposals as “day one” priorities, much of what he outlined would require the approval of the General Assembly. Democrats currently have full control of the body, though the entire state House is on the ballot this fall, when Democrats will be defending their 55-45 majority. No seats are up for election this year in the more moderate Senate, where Democrats have a 21-19 majority and several members don't always vote along party lines.
At his rally Monday, Youngkin described a series of tax cuts that he estimated would save a typical Virginia family of four almost $1,500 in the first year.
He pledged to: eliminate the state grocery tax; suspend the most recent gas tax hike for a year; offer a one-time tax rebate of $300 for individuals and $600 for joint filers; cut income taxes by doubling the standard deduction; cut taxes on veterans' retirement income; and implement a requirement that voters approve increases on local property taxes.
McAuliffe hasn't released an extensive tax plan, though his campaign previously told The Washington Post that he would not raise taxes.
His policy platform about jobs and the economy pledges to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, make childcare more affordable and ensure paid sick, family and medical leave, an issue that's proven divisive even among Democrats in the past two legislative sessions.
Youngkin also said Monday that he would open at least 20 new charter schools, and he took aim at several state agencies that have come under harsh scrutiny during the Northam administration: the Department of Motor Vehicles, the state Parole Board, the Virginia Employment Commission.
He promised to fire the entire parole board — which was met by loud cheers from the crowd — and improve customer service at the DMV, where people have struggled to get appointments, and the VEC, which struggled to process a flood of applications amid the pandemic.
McAuliffe's campaign and other Democrats have spent months criticizing Youngkin's campaign as light on policy, often needling them on Twitter for their lack of a standard “issues page" on their website.
Youngkin previously rolled out plans on topics including human trafficking and veterans affairs. But Monday's offering was the most wide-ranging and detailed look at the priorities of a potential Youngkin administration.
Voters will get a chance to hear Youngkin and McAuliffe discuss their policy ideas soon at the first of two debates scheduled in the race, to be hosted Sept. 16 by the Appalachian School of Law.
A July debate hosted by the Virginia Bar Association, something of a political tradition that typically offers voters a chance to hear directly from the candidates early in the campaign season, was canceled this year after Youngkin declined to participate, citing in part concerns over the journalist moderator.
The election is Nov. 2 and early voting starts in less than three weeks. Voters will also be choosing the state's next attorney general and lieutenant governor.