- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

RICHMOND — The Senate Finance Committee’s public hearing yesterday on the state’s new two-year budget turned out to be more of a sales pitch for its spending proposal, which House Republicans say they will not support.

Senate Finance Chairman John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican, said the differences in the two budget plans “needed to be amplified here.”

The hearing was held on the second day of the special legislative session that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, called after the Republican-controlled General Assembly failed to approve a spending plan before it adjourned March 11.

The House adjourned Monday and plans to return tomorrow.

Education, health care, economic development and transportation officials from around the state applauded the Senate Finance Committee, saying the chamber’s budget — which includes $1 billion in new taxes — would provide more financial support than the House plan for endeavors they see as vital.

“The things you do in Richmond affect us,” said Edgar B. Hatrick III, superintendent of Loudoun County schools, who said state funding helps ease the local tax burden needed to fund education. “We believe you are headed in the right direction.”

The officials said the Senate’s plan would provide more money for economic-development grants in Danville, sewer improvements in the southwest corner of the state, higher pay raises for teachers, and maintaining and improving roads all across the commonwealth.

No one spoke in opposition to the Senate plan.

Philip A. Shucet, former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, reiterated the message that road-construction projects have slowed because the money instead is being used to pay for the rising cost of maintaining existing roads.

This year “the total maintenance budget sits at $1.4 billion, while the construction lags at $1.1 billion. Even with your plan, maintenance would overtake construction again in 2011,” Mr. Shucet told the committee.

Throughout budget negotiations, the Senate has maintained that the differences between the budgets the two chambers have put forward extend beyond how to upgrade the state’s congested roadways.

The House, on the other hand, has portrayed the differences between the spending proposals as minimal, claiming the Senate has stalled negotiations because of its unwillingness to talk about transportation separately.

The Senate and Mr. Kaine want to raise about $1 billion a year in new revenue for transportation improvements statewide through a combination of increased taxes and fees.

Delegates want to pay about $1 billion over two years for transportation projects primarily in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads with revenue reeled in through long-term borrowing, and dipping into the state’s projected $1.4 billion surplus.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide