- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

RICHMOND — Ask anyone on Capitol Square how often House Appropriations Committee Chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr. smiles, and the answer likely will include the word “rarely.”

But what the 74-year-old Fairfax Republican lacks in cheerfulness, he makes up for in resolve.

His propensity in standing firm in his beliefs has become a prominent factor in the ongoing budget negotiations during what should be the final days of the legislative session.

And, Mr. Callahan firmly believes in keeping tax increases out of the budget.

“The Senate is holding us hostage on raising the tax on gas and using the budget as a method for getting it,” Mr. Callahan said. “Philosophically, I don’t think the budget should be the vehicle for raising taxes.”

Elected in 1967, Mr. Callahan has been arm-wrestling with senators over the state’s spending blueprints for decades. He has served on the Virginia House Appropriations Committee since 1972 and has been committee chairman since 2002.

Mr. Callahan says compromise has been getting more difficult lately.

It’s rare for Mr. Callahan to take the microphone and make a speech on the House floor. But yesterday he became so frustrated with the rhetoric from House Democrats and state Senators that he publicly aired his irritation.

“I am appalled with what has happened in recent years to the legislative process dealing with the budget bill,” he told his colleagues. “The debauchery of the budget by the Senate is a sad case in Virginia history, and I hope that when we get this behind us we can address this issue and make sure we get back to our traditions.”

When the House took a break from debating bills yesterday, Mr. Callahan walked back to his legislative office, where he told a Washington Times reporter that he was in a “lousy” mood.

Why? He holds out a copy of remarks made by senators.

“We were conciliatory in our remarks this morning, and now they come back with this slap in the face,” Mr. Callahan told The Times. “After this, I don’t want to meet with them.”

As the session nears closure, much of Mr. Callahan’s work is done behind closed doors, as he works out the give-and-take of the budget with key legislators and the governor.

He often retreats to his ninth-floor office in the General Assembly building.

In the waiting room there’s a photograph of Mr. Callahan being embraced by a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. Huddled with him inside the musty room are the state’s most powerful lawmakers and budget staffers.

Yesterday, Mr. Callahan attended a press conference on behalf of the House Republicans, who think taxes aren’t necessary to fund transportation because the state is running a multibillion dollar surplus and because lawmakers passed a $1.38 billion tax increase two years ago.

The House went into session at noon, and Mr. Callahan gave his speech and cast dozens of votes on bills ranging from gun rights to protection from dangerous dogs. Delegates remained in session until late in the evening.

But there are happy moments that make Mr. Callahan smile.

The normally rumpled delegate beamed ear to ear when he married longtime friend Yvonne DeBruyn Weight last month.

“I haven’t seen Vince smile like that in years,” Delegate Johnny S. Joannou said at the ceremony.

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