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Virginia’s Latino Caucus enters the budget fray

From left, Delegates Michelle Maldonado, Alfonso Lopez, Phil Hernandez and Marty Martinez speak at a press conference for the Virginia Latino Caucus. (Photo by Brad Kutner, Radio IQ)
From left, Delegates Michelle Maldonado, Alfonso Lopez, Phil Hernandez and Marty Martinez speak at a press conference for the Virginia Latino Caucus. (Photo by Brad Kutner, Radio IQ)

Latinos make up about 11% of Virginia’s population, but only about 3% of the state legislature. But that hasn’t stopped that small percentage from speaking up in Richmond, especially as the 2024 legislative session moves into its more adversarial phase.

This story was reported and written by Radio IQ

Norfolk-area Delegate Phil Hernandez opened up the Virginia Latino Caucus press conference Tuesday by knocking Governor Glenn Youngkin’s pitch to reduce income taxes.

“Because we have a flat tax rate already where teachers and millionaires are in the same tax bracket, the Lionshare of that money goes to people at the top,” he said before moving on to address the Governor's proposed .9% sales tax increase: “Which Is the definition of a regressive tax that hurts working class families.”

All this posturing was propped up by his caucus’s own funding requests, some contained in both House and Senate budget proposals.

Requests included reserving funds for DACA and Dreamers to spend on college tuition and other money to increase the number of English learner teachers in public K-12 schools.

Northern Virginia Delegate Alphonso Lopez also praised funds made available by both chambers that would reduce the cost of high school advanced placement tests. He said the measure would drop the per-test cost by about $100 for families on reduced lunch.

“I think that the appropriators have set aside this money, and it is going to be very positive for new American, Latino, and African American families below the poverty line,” Lopez said.

Other legislative priorities included minimum wage increases for farm workers, tenant protections and an effort to remove the antiquated term “illegal alien” from the state’s code.

Whether or not Youngkin will agree to any of these funding requests, or legislative efforts remains to be seen.