Virginia budget leaders confirm Alexandria arena deal is out of the proposed spending plan

FILE - Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, recognizes a visitor in the gallery as she presides over the Senate at the Capitol, Jan 27, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Lucas vowed Wednesday, March 6, 2024, to keep language enabling a proposed relocation by the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals to Alexandria out of the state budget lawmakers will take up later this week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

FILE – Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, recognizes a visitor in the gallery as she presides over the Senate at the Capitol, Jan 27, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Lucas vowed Wednesday, March 6, 2024, to keep language enabling a proposed relocation by the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals to Alexandria out of the state budget lawmakers will take up later this week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Work on compromise budget legislation Virginia lawmakers will take up later this week is complete, and the bill does not include language enabling a proposed relocation by the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals to Alexandria, top lawmakers said Thursday.

The development does not necessarily mean the end of the road for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plan to lure the teams across the Potomac River with a $2 billion development district featuring a new arena. But it deals yet another blow for the proposal, a top priority for Youngkin.

The governor said he believes lawmakers were set to make a huge mistake. He defended the outline of the proposal at a news conference in front of the Capitol.

“It could truly be a monumental opportunity,” Youngkin said, touting the project’s job and revenue creation potential, and saying he fears that the Senate’s handling of the discussions could damage the state’s business climate.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas, the top Senate negotiator, stood on the Capitol steps, looking on as he spoke. She told reporters earlier that she remains firmly opposed to a deal that relies on bonds backed by state and city governments.

Del. Luke Torian, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and led negotiations for his chamber, confirmed that the arena-related provisions had been removed from the legislation, which lawmakers are expected to take up Saturday.

Torian, who had sponsored a standalone version of the legislation that was defeated earlier in the session, said he was “perhaps a little disappointed” the language didn’t make it into the budget.

“But that’s the nature of trying to govern here in the Commonwealth,” he said.

The budget had been the last remaining vehicle for the legislation underpinning the deal after other standalone versions failed earlier this session. The governor could pursue an amendment to the budget once lawmakers send it to him, restoring the project language, or he could call a special session on the issue.

Torian said the bill contained raises in each year for teachers and other public employees and important investments in core government services.

The text of the bill was not immediately available in the state’s online information system.

Youngkin and entrepreneur Ted Leonsis, the CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, announced in December that they had reached an understanding on a deal to relocate the Capitals and Wizards.

The plan calls for the creation of a $2 billion development, partly financed by public money, in the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria that would include an arena, practice facility and corporate headquarters for Monumental, plus a separate performing arts venue, all just miles from Capital One Arena, where the teams currently play in Washington.

The AP sent an inquiry seeking comment to a representative for Monumental on the budget development.

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