(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam received one of the lowest grades for fiscal responsibility in the Cato Institute’s biennial report card because he approved several new taxes and increased spending.
The libertarian think tank graded every governor on taxing, saving and spending policies from 2018 through 2020. Governors scored well if they reduced spending, lowered taxes, maintained a balanced budget and kept a strong rainy day fund.
Northam scored a 39 out of 100, tying for the fifth-worst score in the U.S. He was one of only seven governors to receive an F grade.
“Governor Northam is dragging Virginia in a leftwing direction on fiscal policy,” Chris Edwards, one of the leading researchers for the report, told The Center Square. “He received an F on the Cato report because state spending has risen quickly and he has approved a string of large tax increases, including higher taxes on cigarettes and gasoline and higher fees on vehicles and hospitals.”
State spending increased by 4.9% in 2019 and 6.1% in 2020, the report said. In 2018, Northam approved Medicaid expansion, which was paid for by approving two new assessments on hospitals that raised more than $500 million annually.
In 2019, Northam signed a bill to conform the state tax code to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which led to a $400 million increase in federal taxes. Although he refunded the taxpayers for the first year, this is not a recurring return. In 2020, Northam has signed bills to increase the gas tax, increase vehicle fees and raise the cigarette tax, the report noted.
Northam also signed legislation that will allow local governments to implement heavier taxes on certain services. The 2018 and 2019 policies occurred under a Republican-led Legislature, and the 2020 policies occurred under a Democratic-led Legislature.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.