Before dawn on Monday, January 24, while many Virginians were searching for their coffee pot with which to brace themselves for the cold new day and week, a House sub-committee in the General Assembly met at 7:00 and nixed three bills designed to offer tax relief for educational choice and parents of a stillborn child.
The GOP-majority House Finance Sub-Committee #1 killed these three proposals. House Bill (HB) 100 was introduced by Del. Chris Head (R-17, Eastern Roanoke County/Botetourt) to offer a $1,000 tax credit to parents of stillborn infants; such parents face burial expenses usually not covered by insurance. Despite Northern Virginia Democrat Candi Mundon King (Dumfries) crossing the aisle to support the measure, Delegates Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) and sub-committee chairman Joe McNamara (R-8, Western Roanoke County/Salem) opposed the measure, so it died in a 4-4 tie.
HB 103 would have provided an income tax deduction for public, private and homeschooled educators who incur expenses in professional development courses as well as for the supplies they regularly purchase for their students. Here again Del. McNamara voted no, thus killing the measure 4-4.
Lastly, HB 784 sought to expand school choice by creating a home instruction and private school tax credit for expenses or tuition for students attending an accredited private school. This bill died for lack of a motion of support, despite five Republicans serving on the committee.
All three nixed bills were supported by the Virginia Family Foundation and some other conservative organizations. The liberal Virginia Education Association, the teachers’ union, opposed the education bills. There was virtually no known public opposition to the proposed bill to grant a tax credit to help parents who lost a stillborn child.
When asked for a statement about these votes, Del. McNamara responded by email:
“[R]egarding HB100. First, I want to say that I cannot imagine the pain parents go through when they are expecting to bring a beautiful, newborn child into the world, but the baby is dead at birth. I pray for the families affected by these tragic circumstances. As a father, it pains me to even fathom such an experience.”
“[W]hile I voted for similar legislation in 2021, I did not vote for HB 100 because it did not have a budget amendment introduced with it, despite the fact that it would have had a negative fiscal impact of ~$1.08 million to the state budget. The deadline to submit budget amendments for this session was January 14, 2022, so it was too late for the bill’s patron to file an amendment to remedy HB 100’s fiscal impact.”
“My hope was to carry HB 100 over to 2023 so that the patron could introduce a budget amendment to account for the fiscal gap, or better yet, have it included in the Governor’s budget request. However, the motion before the Finance Subcommittee #1 was not to carry the bill over, but rather to report the bill to the full committee. This would have reported the bill with no budget amendment to account for the fiscal impact, and subsequently, no chance of becoming law. Hence, my vote.”
Moreover, McNamara’s legislative aide Chloe Sparwath emailed: “HB 103, while very well-intended, would have a negative revenue impact of $3.5 million. This means that it would need a budget amendment to remedy the fiscal impact; however, no budget amendment was submitted for this legislation, thus, it did not have the means to compensate for its fiscal implications.”
“Additionally, many educators already qualify for a Virginia taxable deduction. While HB 103 would expand the availability and make the deduction larger, the maximum additional benefit for most educators would amount to $14.37.”
“In Delegate McNamara’s view, the marginal benefit of this bill does not justify de-conforming from the federal tax code and subsequently increasing the additional auditing and compliance costs for the Virginia Department of Taxation.”
Despite these setbacks, low-tax advocates are heartened that bills to double the standard deduction and end the grocery and hygiene-product tax are still pending in this session. The Youngkin administration has voiced support for these measures and Del. McNamara is carrying both measures in the House of Delegates.
In an age of profligate governmental spending, McNamara is the only CPA in the House of Delegates, providing much-needed financial expertise to state budgeting and taxation issues.