By Stefanie Jackson – At the inauguration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, the new governor outlined his vision for Virginia and, after a parade celebrating diverse groups and interests from across the commonwealth, he started work on his Day One agenda by signing 11 executive actions.
“Today we gather not as individuals … nor as Republicans or Democrats, but today we gather as Virginians,” Youngkin began his inaugural address.
The voters “sent us here on a mission to restore trust in government and to restore power to the people … entrusted to protect liberty, create opportunity, and build unity for the hard work ahead.” he said.
A record of nearly 3.3 million Virginians, or about 25% more than previously, voted in the November general election in which Youngkin won the governorship.
He thanked former Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pam Northam for being “gracious and supportive during this transition.”
“My fellow Virginians,” Youngkin said, “the spirit of Virginia is alive and well, and together we will strengthen it. Together we will renew the promise of Virginia so it will be the best place to live and work and raise a family.”
He reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Virginia over the last two years. “Not a single one of us has escaped the tragic consequences of COVID-19. Today we lift up our prayers for the more than 15,000 Virginians whose lives have been lost. We pray for their families and we pray for those who have survived but who’ve lost jobs, lost an income or a business, or even lost hope,” Youngkin said.
But “we’re home to a resilient and courageous people – heroes who’ve inspired us: doctors and nurses who worked double shifts to save lives; grocers, truckers, postal workers who worked overtime to stock shelves and make deliveries; and neighbors who have taken care of the frail and elderly in our communities.
“Despite the continuing challenges posed by COVID-19, I see a path forward – not to some pessimistic ‘new normal’ but to a new and better day,” Youngkin said.
“Our common path forward is with the miracle of modern medicine. It’s given us vaccines, new therapeutics, and medical treatments. And our common path forward is also forged with a deep and abiding respect for individual freedom. … Our common path forward protects both lives and livelihoods across this great commonwealth.”
“We must bind the wounds of division, restore trust, find common cause for the common good,” Youngkin said.
He outlined his top priorities as governor, starting with education: raising public education standards, increasing teacher pay, investing in school facilities, funding programs for students with disabilities, and creating charter schools within the public school system.
“We will remove politics from the classroom,” Youngkin continued, “and we will will focus on essential math, science, and reading; and we will teach all of our history, the good and the bad.”
To prevent further learning loss and development setbacks, children must stay in school five days a week, he said.
Later, the new governor added, “Parents should have a say in what is taught in schools … because in Virginia, parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education, and care.”
To offset the increased cost of living, Virginia’s recent gas tax increase will be suspended for one year, its grocery tax will be eliminated, and the income tax standard deduction will be doubled, Youngkin said.
“We will … rein in skyrocketing income tax and provide the largest tax rebate in Virginia’s history.”
Taxes on military veterans’ retirement benefits also will be cut, he said.
Additional economic boosters will include reducing regulations, investing in job training, and making it easier for businesses to access capital, “and we are going to get all Virginians back to work,” Youngkin said.
He pledged that 400,000 jobs and 10,000 new businesses will be created over the next four years.
Youngkin also said Virginia will stop “conceding corporate relocations” to neighboring states like Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee. “We will compete and we will win.”
Law enforcement will be fully funded, including higher salaries, better training, and updated equipment. Qualified immunity for law enforcement officers will be protected, the new governor said.
“And we will invest in community policing programs to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.”
“What we can do together is truly limitless,” Youngkin said. “We must set our eyes on the common values and common future that unites us, to work every day to strengthen the spirit of Virginia and redeem the promise of our people. My fellow Virginians, it’s Day One – let’s get to work.”
Later that afternoon, Youngkin signed 11 executive actions:
- Executive order one ends the use of “divisive concepts,” such as Critical Race Theory, in public education.
- Executive order two allows parents to decide whether or not their children will wear face masks in school.
- Executive order three focuses on restoring “integrity and confidence” in Virginia’s parole board.
- Executive order four concerns the opening of an investigation of wrongdoing in Loudoun County.
- Executive order five creates the position of Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer to make “government work for Virginians.”
- Executive order six declares Virginia “open for business.”
- Executive order seven focuses on stopping and preventing human trafficking and providing support to survivors.
- Executive order eight establishes a commission to combat antisemitism.
- Executive order nine withdraws Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
- Executive directive one concerns cutting “job killing regulations” by 25%.
- Executive directive two concerns rescinding the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees.