RICHMOND (AP) The leadership of the Republican-controlled General Assembly is working with Gov. Mark R. Warner in an unusually cooperative manner to erase a multibillion-dollar shortfall, lawmakers say.
“It’s a united front. We’re one the same page,” said Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and a $2 billion deficit during the 2003-2004 budget cycle. Mr. Warner has said that could swell to $5 billion through 2005.
Those staggering deficits have forced Republicans and Democrats to work together with Mr. Warner, who bills himself as a fiscal conservative. Lawmakers have held closed-door discussions with members of the Warner administration and their own caucuses.
The goal, they say, is to reach consensus on the amendments Mr. Warner will attach to the two-year, $51 billion budget of former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican. The amendments are due Tuesday.
Lawmakers say the process has been civil.
House Minority Leader Delegate Franklin P. Hall, Richmond Democrat, said there has been a “good faith” effort by parties to solve the state’s fiscal problems without partisan bickering.
“The problems weren’t created overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight,” said Brian J. Moran of Alexandria, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Lawmakers concede Mr. Warner, who is in his first week in office, is enjoying a honeymoon period.
Mr. Warner said during Monday night’s address to a joint session of the General Assembly that he wants to immediately cut state-agency budgets by 3 percent, and by 8 percent in 2004.
He also said that “one-time” budget fixes employed in Mr. Gilmore’s budget were going to have to be used. Included among those is tapping $467 million of the nearly $1 billion “rainy day fund.”
A tentative agreement to use the fixes Mr. Warner wants has been reached, legislative sources said, but there is disagreement about the size and scope of budget cuts.