Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Stuart speaks out against Senate budget difficulties
Sen. Richard Stuart waded into the state Senate’s budget hostilities Monday with a floor speech warning Democrats that a budget impasse could put localities and other recipients of state money in the lurch.
Last week Democrats in the Senate killed the Senate’s budget by voting against it. Democrats say they did so for substantive reasons, because they disagree with policies contained in the budget and feel it doesn’t have enough money for education, health care and other needs.
Republicans, though, say Democrats are simply holding the budget hostage in an attempt to wrest more power in the Senate. November’s elections gave each party 20 seats, but Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, can vote to break ties, and Republicans used that to claim control of the Senate.
Recently Senate Democrats sent the Republicans a letter suggesting changes to the committee make-up, with Democrats getting more seats on committees and sharing chairmanship of the budget-writing Senate Finance committee.
Stuart, R-Stafford, noted that Democrats have been pointing out that in 2008, all the Senate Republicans voted against the budget that was written by the then-majority Democrats.
Republican’s objections then, he said, were entirely based on specific fiscal policy issues.
“Today, we are in another standoff the budget, one that could ultimately lead to a government shutdown,” Stuart said in his floor speech. “But if we’re going to jeopardize funding for schools, for health care, for public safety, for local governments, for college and universities, shouldn’t the issue of contention be the budget. Shouldn’t the argument be about fiscal policy and not politics?”
Later, Stuart said the situation “frustrates me.”
Legislators’ primary purpose for being in Richmond for the two-month session, he said, is to pass a budget, and now Democrats are threatening that.
This week, the Senate — and House — are due to vote again on the budget, because the budget is a bill and like every bill, it must be voted on by both houses. What happens this week is normally a procedural move designed to put the budget into a conference committee: the House amends the Senate budget to look like the House budget, the Senate does the same to the House budget, and they approve those budgets. That’s where things could get stuck again on the Senate side, as this would require Democratic votes. Normally, the two houses would pass those budgets, then reject the other house’s amendments, and that would put the budget into the hands of a conference committee, made up of a dozen or so House and Senate negotiators who hammer out a final deal.
But if Democrats vote against the budget again this week, and kill it, that means both the House and Senate budget bills are dead, and lawmakers will have to figure out their next move. They’re scheduled to finish a budget and adjourn by March 10, a week from Saturday.
This week the state Senate will have another chance to vote on a state budget
Stuart on budget:
last time, in 08 or whatever, “our bojection was based on what
‘We had genuine disagreements about the budget”
excessive use of debt
“We voted aginst it becuase of policy reasons, fiscal policy reasons.”
now another standoff, might lead to shutdown
“If we’re going to jeapordize the fudnign for schools, for health care to seniors and others… I would hope that that would be about issue of policy and not of politics.”