- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

RICHMOND — The House of Delegates yesterday rejected a budget plan that the Senate approved two days ago, a procedural move that advances the budget to its final stages more than two months beyond its due date.

The Senate dropped its demand Tuesday for tax increases to provide more than $1 billion per year for transportation, a condition that the Republican anti-tax House leaders promised not to accept.

While the move pleased the House, it voted 78-12 against the Senate revisions. That puts the budget before five senators and six delegates responsible for agreeing on a compromise.

The Senate and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, had pressed for long-term, sustainable funding for backlogged transportation needs approaching $100 billion. The Senate yielded to a House that would not relent on its opposition to new taxes when it became clear that further delays risked ending the fiscal year June 30 unable to fund government.

A budget was due by the end of the regular legislative session March 11, but was held up by the debate about additional money for new roads, rails and transit. It marked the third time in five years that legislators were unable to finalize a budget on time.

The General Assembly has been in special session for 76 days, and a final compromise is now in the hands of the 11 negotiators.

The House and Senate hope to make another effort to settle the transportation issue this summer or in the fall, after the budget is enacted.

“I am concerned whether we have enough reasonable people in here to make a transportation plan come alive,” said Delegate Kenneth R. Melvin, Portsmouth Democrat. “Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia are the engines of Virginia’s economy, and what you are doing in those areas is strangling jobs.”

Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid, Henrico Republican, questioned the urgency to come up with a transportation package now. “I think it’s silly for us to stand up and react to this crisis and say we must do something immediately,” he said.

It would take five years to begin construction if the funds were made available now, he said.

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