Cummings handled the challenges diplomatically – “I understand the perspective and I understand the frustration,” he told Torian – but he did not back off Youngkin’s claims that Virginia is lagging in economic growth and jobs, especially for small businesses and people with lower incomes who do not contribute as much in state taxes as the wealthy.
“The environment for the average Virginian is, it’s really great if you’re at the top, but it’s really not very great if you’re at the bottom of the spectrum,” he said.
Cummings, with more than 40 years in private finance and banking, has tried to walk the line by acknowledging his lack of experience in “public service,” but reassuring legislators with finance veterans they know.
He was flanked by two veteran deputies – June Jennings, who served under Gov. Ralph Northam, and Charles Kennington, a former tax analyst at Senate Finance. Sitting behind him were Tax Commissioner Craig Burns and Chief State Economist John Layman, who both remain in their jobs.
And in the wings, Northam’s former Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne has agreed to serve as an unpaid adviser to his successor. “He’s actually been doing that with me ever since I walked in the door,” Cummings told the House committee.
But the administration’s message has been a hard sell for legislators, especially Democrats, who take pride in the $ 2.6 billion revenue surplus the state achieved in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and expected new revenues of more than $ 13 billion combined this year and in the next two-year budget. State financial reserves would reach a record $ 3.3 billion under the budget Northam presented last month.