PolitiFact VA: Did Youngkin Flip on Ending the State Income Tax?
On ending the state income tax
Has Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin changed his position on axing Virginia’s personal income tax?
A central theme in his campaign is that more people are moving out of Virginia than coming in, and a large reason, he says, is because taxes are too high.
While seeking the GOP nomination this spring, Youngkin said he was working on a plan to cut or eliminate the state income tax. He said his key fiscal adviser is Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who shaped tax cuts in Kansas in 2012 that were blamed for causing years of deep budget shortfalls until they were repealed in 2017.
“We are absolutely focused on not just getting our income tax down, but how we can, in fact, eliminate it,” Youngkin said during an April 26 interview with conservative radio host Larry O’Connor.
On April 12, he told conservative broadcaster Hugh Hewitt, “We have to get our taxes down. As your governor, I’m going to work like crazy to get them down. I’ve got a great senior economic adviser; Stephen Moore is working with us in order to figure out how to get our taxes down. And we’re targeting on getting them down to zero because we need to compete [with other states]."
Since winning the GOP nomination in May, Youngkin’s talk about ending income taxes has become problematic. The tax has a top rate of 5.75% on earnings above $17,500. It’s expected to generate $16 billion this budget year, or 67% of Virginia’s $23.9 billion general fund that pays for public safety, education and health programs.
McAuliffe has said Youngkin’s abolition of sales tax would bring huge cuts to vital programs. Several newspapers have run editorials coming to the same conclusion and criticizing Youngkin for not saying how he would replace the lost revenues. “If Virginians want to see an economy run ‘into the ditch,’ Mr. Youngkin’s plan would do the trick,” The Washington Post wrote in a July 31 editorial.
Youngkin’s tone has recently changed. “I don’t believe we can eliminate Virginia’s state income tax,” he told WMAL radio in Washington on Aug. 4.
Youngkin said he is still committed to cutting the income tax and that, while he had set a goal of ending it, he never promised to do so.
“What I said was we, in fact, need to reduce our state income tax,” Youngkin said. “It would be aspirational to get rid of it, but it’s very hard to get rid of it and therefore we need to bring it down to make it more competitive.”
Youngkin made similar remarks during an Aug.10 interview with WLNI in Lynchburg.
“In Virginia, we can’t get rid of income tax but we sure can try to bring it down,'' he said. "It’s an important part of funding our government. It can’t go down to zero like Tennessee and Florida, but we can certainly bring it down and that’s one of the things I’m really focused on when I go to work for all Virginians as the next governor.”
We asked Youngkin’s campaign for more explanation and were told his radio comments speak for themselves.
Seeking the GOP nomination in April, Youngkin said he was focused “on not just getting our income tax down, but how we can, in fact, eliminate it.” Although that may have stirred some Republicans, Youngkin stopped short of saying he would abolish the tax. He said he was looking into it with a conservative economist.
Four months later, Youngkin now says he still wants to cut the income tax but has determined it’s infeasible to eliminate it. That’s a significant change in position, but he left himself some leeway.
We rate it a Half Flip.
McClatchy, “Trump’s pick for Federal Reserve had hand in creation of Brownback tax ‘experiment’,” March 29, 2019.
Glenn Youngkin, Interview on The Larry O’Connor Show, April 26, 2021.
Youngkin, Interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show, April 12, 2021.
Youngkin, WMAL interview, Aug. 4, 2021.
Youngkin, WLNI interview, Aug. 10, 2021.
Secretary of Finance K. Joseph Flores, “Review of General Fund Revenues and the Virginia Economy for Fiscal Year 2021,” Aug. 18, 2021.
Terry McAuliffe, TV ad, Aug. 18, 2021.
The Washington Post, “Glenn Youngkin’s economic plan would run Virginia ‘into a ditch,’” July 31, 2021.
Email from Youngkin campaign, Aug. 23, 2021.
Email from Terry McAuliffe campaign, Aug. 19, 2021.