Friday, February 24, 2012

Democrats threaten hold the budget hostage over committee assignments.

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Democrats claim they want changes to the budget,
but the only issue they cite is the results of the last election.

This week in Richmond began with snowy skies and ended with temperatures in the seventies, moving from frigid to balmy. If only things inside the Capitol moved in the same direction.

While it may be too early to predict a budget stalemate that could send this year's session into overtime, Democratic Senators have made it clear they have no intention of voting to approve a new budget for the Commonwealth. Virginia will not have a budget unless at least one Democratic Senator votes in favor of a budget.

Virginia's Constitution requires that a budget be approved by a majority vote of the members elected in both the House and the Senate. While the Lieutenant Governor is empowered by the Constitution to break ties, the passage of a budget is one of the few areas where he is constitutionally prohibited from doing so. That means that at least one Democratic Senator would have to join the twenty Republican Senators in approving a budget.

This week, Democratic Senators publicly stated that unless their demands are met, they have no intention of voting to approve a budget. Are they demanding that more money be spent on some priorities, or that spending be allocated differently than in the budget crafted by the Senate Finance Committee? No, in fact, the budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee contains multiple spending initiatives proposed, advocated, and sponsored by Democratic Senators. What the Democrats are demanding is that the Rules of the Senate be changed so they can have more committee assignments than the number to which they are currently entitled under those rules.  This is a dispute over politics, not policy.

So more than 100 days after last November's elections, the Democrats are still asking for the outcome to be changed. If their requests were related to the budget, negotiations would be underway to iron out differences over spending priorities. But their complaints have nothing to do with the budget. Hopefully, in the week ahead, they will abandon obstructionism and fulfill their constitutional duties to approve a budget that meets the priorities of the people of Virginia.

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first tele-town hall meeting. We had some terrific questions and look forward to doing it again soon.

With only two weeks left before the scheduled conclusion of the General Assembly session, there's still plenty to come. I'll update you on the latest developments in next week's column.

Until then, have a great week.

Warm Regards,

Senator Dick Black

Follow Senator Black on Facebook to keep up with events in Richmond, and please don't hesitate to contact our office during the legislative session at (804) 698-7513.


Black For Senate
Leesburg, Va

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