Minchew Memo – 2012 General Assembly

Budget Impasse

Last week, after the Senate voted down the bi-partisan budget bills it received from the House, our House Appropriations Committee Chairman Lacey Putney requested and received unanimous consent to introduce two new budget bills. This was the only procedural device available to keep our push for a structurally-balanced budget alive after the Senate voted down our House budget and then was unable to give us one of their own.

In the House of Delegates, we have worked hard to pass a fiscally responsible budget with bipartisan support. During the Floor debate on the House Budget, Democratic House Minority Leader David Toscano publicly thanked Republicans for including Democrats in the process and for having the opportunity to give their input. There are many positive attributes in the House Budget for both sides of the aisle. The House Budget is a fair and balanced budget that contains targeted funding increases in core areas of government including job growth, education, public safety, and health care, all without raising taxes or fees. Even the House Democrat Caucus Chairman said after the budget vote that many of the Democrats’ no votes were not “super hard no” votes against the House Budget and went on to explain the reasons why some ultimately voted against it. In the end, one third of the House Democrats joined with House Republicans in supporting the House Budget that passed on a 79-21 vote.

In the Senate, solution-oriented bipartisanship is a rare commodity, and the Senate rejected our House budget on a party line (19-20) vote. I would note that all 20 Senate Republicans supported our original House Budget bil l but we were unable to gain one Democratic vote required for passage. Given that the Senate Democrats were successful in defeating our House budget and have been unable to produce an alternative for House consideration, we will most certainly adjourn on Saturday without an approved biennial budget.

What would it mean if Virginia did not pass a budget by July 1st? Simply put, funding for most all state employees and agencies would cease and state government would essentially shut down. We have advised the Senate that each day it blocks passage of a state budget, it puts at risk funding for our schools, our roads, and more. Virginia colleges, universities, and public schools are in the process of developing their budgets and need to know how much state funding to expect. Each day the Senate refuses to pass a budget, it adds to the growing uncertainty among our local boards of supervisors, town councils, school boards, and boards of visitors as they try to budget for the next fiscal year.

If the Senate is unable to deliver a budget to us before Saturday’s adjournment, I will join our House leadership in asking the Governor to call a special session later this month.

Upon adjournment on Saturday, we all must work together to fulfill our obligation to all Virginians to pass a state budget. As time dwindles, I hope the Senate can come to an agreement “The Virginia Way” to ensure Virginia’s government is working to meet its responsibilities to the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Transportation News Highlights

Governor McDonnell announces more than 30 firms responded to a Request For Information to enhance Transportation Operations Centers. Earlier in January, VDOT submitted a Request For Information (RFI) from private sector companies that will help the state utilize the latest technology to meet motorists needs. Read more, click here.

The General Assembly Pursues Fund to Build Alternate Fuels Fleet, which will “assist state agencies with the incremental cost of converting an existing state-owned vehicle to use an alternative fuel or of purchasing a new vehicle equipped to operate on alternative fuel…” The measure received unanimous consent in the House. Read Leesburg Today’s coverage here .