The House of Delegates and Virginia Senate approved budget bills Thursday that will move the the difficult task of balancing the budget one step closer to reality. Struggling with a convergence of fiscal challenges, the Commonwealth has a 4 billion dollar deficit to overcome. The situation is not expected to turn around anytime soon. The Commonwealth’s projected general fund revenues for the next two years will be at the levels they were in 2006. Confronted with these realities the next step may very well prove to be the most contentious. The two legislative bodies must agree on painful cuts that will be felt deeply across the entire state.
With a Democratically controlled Senate and a Republican House, the state’s bipartisan negotiations may very well attract national attention. Since both bodies agreed in January to reject any new taxes or tax increases, this process will demonstrate where the parties stake their priorities based on what cuts they choose to make. The Democrats in both bodies have vehemently opposed the deep tax cuts to public schools and health and human services. In a statement released by House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong and Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Plum the Democrats said, “Simply put, this is a budget balanced on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. ”
Republicans are supporting the direction outlined by Governor Bob McDonnell. Speaking on the budget passed in the Republican controlled House Delegate Lacey E. Putney said, “I know that not everyone shares my belief that the budget before us meets all of the core needs of the Commonwealth. However, I believe that the budget before us today strikes a sensible balance between meeting the core commitments that we as politicians like to talk about and the burden placed on the taxpayers who must foot the bill.”
The two bodies have about two weeks to negotiate a budget before the scheduled March 13 adjournment.