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Youngkin’s Glenn Dome on the brink: Would he be willing to veto the budget to save it?

Chris Graham
alexandria arena
Photo: alexandriaecon.org

Gov. Glenn Youngkin might have to be willing to veto the state budget to get the $2 billion publicly financed arena for his billionaire buddy, Ted Leonsis.

“We’ve started our discussions, and I think that there is just a clear need for us to continue to engage,” the Republican centi-millionaire told reporters this week at an event in Petersburg.

“When anybody finally sits down and listens to the specifics of the project, they’re immediately convinced this is really good for the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said.

Except that, they’re not – the $2 billion deal to build a new arena for Leonsis to relocate his NBA and NHL teams from Washington across the river to Alexandria would need $1.5 billion in Virginia taxpayer-backed bonds to come to reality.

The City of Alexandria would also be on the hook for millions to go toward the project, which has met with stiff local opposition, with residents citing the impact of additional traffic on an already-overburdened roads network at the proposed Potomac Yards development site.

The deal has been held up because of the resistance of a single state senator, Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who has used her position as chair of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committee to ensure that the boondoggle doesn’t see the light of day in the State Senate.

Youngkin, demonstrating next-level tone deafness, has been touring the state to make the case to partisan audiences about “The Backward Budget,” highlighting his pledge to cut state income taxes through a convoluted measure that would fund the tax cut by increasing the state sales tax and extend sales taxes to digital downloads.

The Alexandria arena deal is clearly an attempt by Youngkin to carve out some kind of political legacy with billions of other people’s tax dollars as the last two years of his single term as a lame-duck governor play out.

“What we really know is that in order to pass a bill today it take 51 delegates and 21 senators. It doesn’t require all of them,” Youngkin told reporters at the March 19 Petersburg event. “And then of course, the second thing that it requires is a governor’s signature, and I believe that we can work with our General Assembly in order to make sure that everybody understands the merit of this project on a stand-alone project basis, and we’re going to work to see if we can pull together a majority of our House, a majority of our Senate, so we can press forward.”

The messaging about “The Backward Budget” isn’t helping his cause. It brings up how Youngkin got himself into this jam in the first place, back in February, when he disparaged “today’s progressive Democratic Party” in a speech at the Washington and Lee University mock presidential convention.

The money quote from his W&L speech: “Today’s progressive Democratic Party does not believe in, nor do they want, a strong America, an America with no rivals; they are content to concede, to compromise away, to abandon the very foundations that have made America exceptional.”

Lucas, after responding on Twitter: “This is the speech he gives while wanting us to compromise and give him the Glenn Dome,” then moved to remove legislation advancing the arena deal from the Appropriations and Finance Committee docket.

Seems the governor still hasn’t learned, two years in, how government works.

“Does that impact negotiations? Yes, it does,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Luke Torian. “Is it a backwards budget because we want to do good things for the citizens of the Commonwealth?”

Lucas was more direct, saying the proposed budget “provided for all constituents across the Commonwealth, not just for billionaires who didn’t ask for it and don’t need it.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].