Senate Democrats block Virginia budget
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday layered its own amendments over the House version of the two-year, $85 billion budget - standard practice as both versions advance through their respective houses. But Wednesday was the last day for each chamber to act on the budget bills of the other, so the impasse leaves the assembly in uncharted territory, said Finance Secretary Richard D. Brown.
“In essence, we’re in regular session with no real vehicle for a conference committee to consider,” he said.
The situation is unprecedented. Budget standoffs took place in 2001, 2004 and 2006, but Gov. James S. Gilmore III ended up amending a two-year budget already in place in 2001. And there had been a budget conference between the two bodies to work with in 2004 and 2006.
As it stands, each chamber, by unanimous consent, can reintroduce a budget bill, and Gov. Bob McDonnell can send down a budget at any point. The assembly could also adjourn and return to address it in a special session.
In 2006, the House and Senate, in a spat over transportation funding, failed to approve a budget before the General Assembly adjourned. Gov. Tim Kaine said he had the authority to enact a spending plan if the legislature did not. But Mr. McDonnell, then the state’s attorney general, concluded in an official opinion that the state Constitution designates that authority to the General Assembly.
“It might be premature to get into that in the absence of seeing exactly what they want to do in the next few weeks,” said Mr. Brown.
“There are many over there that truly are statesmen, really do want to see Virginia be put first, and I think that they don’t want to be in the embarrassing situation of having to look their constituents in the eye and [say], ‘I killed the Senate budget because I wanted to have more power and better committees,’” he said. “That’s not a good argument. That’s not the way people on either side do things around here.”
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