- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

RICHMOND — The Senate yesterday passed a revised budget that bows to the House of Delegates’ demand to hold the line on taxes and postpone the debate on a transportation plan to as late as the fall.

The retreat could signal a breakthrough in a historic budget stalemate that threatens to partially shut down state government if not resolved when the current two-year budget expires June 30.

The Senate bill, which passed 24-8, includes a one-time expenditure of $339 million for transportation — but there is a catch.

The money will be spent on roads and rail projects only if the General Assembly passes a statewide transportation plan that includes tax increases by Nov. 1. Otherwise, the money will go to the school construction fund and other capital projects.

Sen. John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican and chairman of the Finance Committee, said it is now up to the House to decide whether Virginia will have a meaningful transportation plan.

“We’ve done all we’re going to do on it,” he said after the committee sent the bill to the Senate floor.

Sens. Richard L. Saslaw and Janet D. Howell, both Fairfax Democrats, voted against the revised bill in committee.

“It abandons Northern Virginia to an endless traffic jam,” Mrs. Howell said after the meeting.

The transportation debate is at the center of a budget standoff that has reached 133 days, surpassing the record 115-day budget stalemate of 2004.

The Senate, controlled by centrist Republicans, has insisted on new, long-term revenue sources for the first major transportation overhaul in two decades.

The House, led by Republican conservatives, has taken a hard line against tax increases.

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