- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2001

The Republican leadership in the Virginia House of Delegates will try to take the next step in resolving the budget impasse today, accepting the Senates rules change to allow budget matters to be considered in the ongoing special session.
The change, in the form of a procedural resolution, must pass the House Rules Committee and then the full House of Delegates before taking effect. That should happen tomorrow.
New budget bills would then be in order, and Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton has a bill ready to be filed that would keep the car-tax rebate on schedule at 70 percent this year while also funding salary increases for public employees and some of the needs of state-aided parks and museums.
Sixty-two delegates have already signed on to the bill, which will likely pass when it comes before the full House. But Mr. Hamilton, Newport News Republican, wants to have public hearings around the state first.
Lawmakers adjourned Feb. 24 without agreeing to amendments to the two-year budget they passed last year. It was up to the governor then to cut $421 million to close a deficit. Public employees were left without pay raises, and state-supported cultural institutions without money in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The House and Senate deadlocked over the size of this years car-tax rebate — a majority of delegates sided with Gov. James S. Gilmore III in demanding it stay on schedule at 70 percent, while the Senate proposed a 55 percent rebate to car owners with the rest of the money going to services.
Mr. Hamiltons new bill delivers a 70 percent car-tax rebate this year but doesnt guarantee a 100 percent rebate next year, instead tying any increase to state revenue growth. The budget capitalizes on the state agency savings proposed by the governor, and also uses savings from the Virginia Retirement System that the House, Senate and Mr. Gilmore have all backed at one time or another, although the Senate has since withdrawn its support. The proposal also meets senators original concern that the estimated car-tax payments were too low.
Senate leaders have their own budget proposal, which moves the car-tax rebate to 55 percent this year, but its not clear whether the plan is a full-blown budget or an outline of amendments to the governors budget.
Mr. Hamilton said the difference is important. The House budget is an entirely new budget, drawn from the ground up, that gives the governor his 70 percent car-tax rebate this year but otherwise takes care of House and Senate members priorities.
But both sides remain entrenched, with the House saying anything less than a 70 percent rebate will be vetoed and the veto upheld, and senators saying they wont go past 55 percent.
Mr. Hamilton said he hasnt been in discussions with Senate negotiators for a week, but House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. said Sen. Walter A. Stosch, Henrico Republican, has been willing to talk. Mr. Stosch couldnt be reached yesterday.


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