A few minutes ago, the Virginia State Senate rejected the budget conference report, which means we’re back to the bargaining table. I watched a number of speeches, including by Senators Saslaw, McEachin, Petersen, and Herring. The main issues holding up the budget were: a) tolls in Hampton Roads; and b) funds for extension of the Silver Line – about which I have mixed feelings – to Dulles Airport. Stay tuned for a statement from the Senate Democratic caucus, and hyperventaliting from Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, etc, etc.
P.S. Why on earth did only 19 (out of 32) House Democrats vote “nay” on this thing?
UPDATE: After much speculation that he might defect, Sen. Colgan ended up voting with the rest of his party on this one.
UPDATE #2: Senate Democratic Caucus statement on the “flip.”
UPDATE #3: NLS has a fascinating analysis of why Republicans are 100% at fault here.
Senate Democrats Reject State Budget
Democratic Senators push for additional funding for transportation
RICHMOND, VA – Today, Senate Democrats voted against the state budget conference report because it did not properly address funding for projects in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said, “The issue here is the lack of transportation funding in two different regions of the state. Rail to Dulles will be an economic bonanza because of the jobs it will bring the Commonwealth. And yet some do not want to fund this project properly. The state has only contributed $200 million. Currently $150 million is pledged, but there are all sorts of rules attached to it. The state must make a substantial contribution to this vital project.”
Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) said, “I am hopeful that we can ensure that the tolls in Hampton Roads will be delayed for a year. But what happens when 2014 gets here? Are we still going to be staring down these sky-high tolls? The Governor must deliver on his promises to develop a realistic, sustainable transportation plan that does not include these heavy tolls.”
Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said, “I am voting no today because this budget does not include enough money for the most important construction project in the Commonwealth. Rail to Dulles is a vital project. It will connect the people of Northern Virginia to one of the most important airports in the country – and to the world. Governing magazine says this is the #1 most important project in the country. The Governor says he supports the Dulles rail project. It’s time for him to prove that,” Senator Saslaw added.
Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) said, “Every year for the past 13 years that I have had the privilege of serving in this legislature we have kicked the can down the road on transportation. Tolls are not the answer to our state’s transportation problems. Tolls can be part of the solution, but they are not the answer. To shackle Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia with heavy tolls is not how a Commonwealth should act. Tolls are just a band-aid solution to a statewide problem.”
“I have an obligation to the citizens I represent and to the people of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun). “Dulles Airport is one of Virginia’s largest job generators and critical to the continued economic prosperity of Northern Virginia. Virginia needs to make a significant additional contribution to the project in order to reduce the burden of exorbitant tolls and that’s why I could not support this budget.”
Despite Republican statements to the contrary, recent history proves that local governments have been largely unaffected by previous budget disagreements. In 2004, disagreement between the House and the Senate meant the budget was not resolved for almost two months past the Senate’s scheduled deadline. In 2006, no budget was agreed upon for 102 days, more than 3 months past the Senate’s scheduled deadline.
State funding for the current year is stable through July 1. That’s 74 days from now. That leaves two months for Republicans and Democrats to reach a compromise on the budget – and Senate Democrats are committed to working with Republicans to create a budget that includes all Virginians, not just some.