Here we go again. For the third time in the past twelve years, a Republican-controlled legislature has ended its regular session without a budget. Since budgets cover a two-year period, that means that half the time since the millennium legislators have bickered, blustered and delayed the most important function of state government.
In 2004, Mark Warner faced a fiscal train wreck after his Republican predecessor Jim Gilmore had gotten his unfunded “no car tax” through the Republican-controlled legislature. The state simply didn’t have the money to reimburse localities for lost revenue from the car tax. The mere mention of a tax increase got a hysterical response from GOP legislators. It took a special session for Warner and a few GOP moderates in the State Senate to finally get revenue increases and a budget. Of course, the upshot of that was those moderate Republicans got “purged” in primaries, helping to create the partisan insanity that is contemporary Virginia governance.
In 2006, after the Republican-controlled General Assembly once again failed to pass a budget, Democrat Tim Kaine called for a special session that continued until that June. GOP intransigence brought the state to a near shutdown of government by an impasse caused by what has become a familiar unresolved crisis in the state, how to fund necessary transportation projects.
This year, the hot-heads in Richmond focused like a laser on what they obviously thought was most important: abortion, contraception, and attacks on public school teachers. Result: no budget.
No matter how much the GOPers whine that those wedge issues were a small part of the session, the fact is they still haven’t done the most important job they are sent to Richmond to do, and that is pass a responsible budget.
It’s been five years now since Virginians learned the state is short $1 billion a year in necessary transportation money. In 2007 Republicans came up with a “plan” to borrow billions and enact huge fines for driving offenses, fines so out of line that an ensuing public outcry led to their moderation in 2008. It’s past time for Norquist-poisoned Republicans to realize that they have two choices. They can either have the state transportation infrastructure fall apart, taking with it the state economy, or they can raise revenue for transportation.
The only thing our politically inept governor has proposed is to steal money from education, public health, police, etc., to buy asphalt – that and more borrowing against future, unknown federal transportation money that backs the issuance of bonds. Perhaps he should think less about being Willard’s running mate and more about running the state he was chosen to lead.
In 2004 the GOP had decent, courageous Republicans in the legislature who were willing to compromise with the Democratic governor and put the state on a firmer fiscal footing. This time around, the Republicans control everything, but they adamantly refuse to solve problems. All they have done this session is throw their weight around and declare war on women.
I have said of late that both in Richmond and in Washington Republicans haven’t shown that they know how to govern. The know how to say “No,” but that’s simply childish stubbornness. To actually govern means the willingness to compromise, to drop blind ideology and practice representative democracy, to solve problems without demonizing others. Even Ronald Reagan couldn’t get along with these people.