RICHMOND, Va. — The five candidates running to be Virginia’s next governor are each making promises that could affect pocketbooks in different ways, ranging from how much Virginians get paid, to how much they pay in taxes to tolls to college costs.
Two Republicans, Ed Gillespie and Corey Stewart, want to cut the state’s income tax rates by varying amounts. The third Republican running, Frank Wagner, has lampooned the proposed cuts as unrealistic and wants to increase the gas tax when oil costs are low, a move he said will prevent the more high-cost tolls on state highways.
Democrats Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello are both promising to raise Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, which if passed would affect more than one in five Virginia workers. Perriello wants to pay an expansive overhaul of state programs by raising taxes on the wealthy, while Northam wants to eliminate grocery taxes paid by the poor.
Campaign promises on pocketbook issues often don’t survive their first brush with the General Assembly, but can still highlight a candidate’s priorities.
Here’s a look at various proposals their potential effects on wallets:
The GOP frontrunner has made trimming the state’s income tax rate a centerpiece of his campaign. Gillespie wants to lower state income tax rates for all tax brackets in Virginia. His plan would lower the tax rate on income over $17,000 a year from 5.75 percent to 5.15 percent. For someone making $60,000 a year, that would mean about $400 less in state income taxes owed.
Gillespie said he would pay for the tax cuts with a portion of expected state revenue growth, not with cuts to state spending. He’s also pledging to get rid of certain local business taxes.
While Gillespie’s plan has been hailed by the many state lawmakers who have endorsed him, both of his Republican competitors have panned the plan. Corey Stewart, a conservative firebrand similar to President Donald Trump, said Gillespie’s plan to cut taxes doesn’t work because there aren’t corresponding cuts to state spending. State Sen. Frank Wagner, a longtime lawmaker who sits on the state senate’s budget committee, said Gillespie’s plan is unrealistic and would leave a hold in the state budget that would threaten the state’s vaunted AAA bond rating.
Stewart wants to eliminate the state income tax, with an immediate reduction in the tax rate until it is phased out over several years, saying “Virginians’ deserve to have the lowest tax bill of any state in the country.” Stewart said he would make up for the lost tax revenue by eliminating wasteful spending, though he has offered few specifics of his plan.
Wagner said as governor he would raise the gas tax as a way to avoid high-cost tolls and boost road building. The increase would be tied to gas prices, and the tax would be lower when gas prices are higher. New tolls have been a major issue in congested areas like Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
Former congressman Perriello has promised to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for new social programs like universal pre-kindergarten, paid parental leave, and two years of free community college or trade school. He said as governor he would pursue increased tax rates for those making more than $500,000 a year and $1 million a year.
He’s also proposing a $500 child care tax credit.
Northam is also proposing the state provide universal pre-kindergarten and free community college, but said it’s possible to do so in a way without raising taxes with help from the private sector. He also wants to exempt the state’s poor from having to pay Virginia’s 2.5 percent sales tax on groceries.
Northam said as governor he’d put together a bi-partisan tax commission to make the state’s tax code simpler and more progressive.