Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Senate Democrats respond to McDonnell on budget
Last Friday, the House of Delegates approved a new budget bill, and Gov. Bob McDonnell sent a late-afternoon letter to Senate Democrats urging them to approve it when it comes to the Senate this week.
Today, Democrats fired back, listing policy issues they have with the budget and vowing to vote against it until those issues are addressed.
It’s the latest volley in a budget impasse that’s been building for two weeks. Senate Democrats, who have 20 seats in the 40-member Senate, have voted down two budget bills already; this third one approved by the House is an unusual move to get a bill back in play. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling can’t vote to break a tie on the budget.
Democrats say they have policy problems with the budgets that have been proposed. They also have pushed for more seats on Senate committees, almost all of which have Republican majorities. Republicans say Democrats are holding the budget hostage for partisan concerns.
In their letter to McDonnell today, Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico, said Democrats have articulated a long list of budget policy concerns, but that Republicans have not listened to them. They also mentioned the “imbalanced power in this evenly divided Senate,” and said that within six weeks of Republicans taking control, Virginia was mocked from late night TV to the pages of national newspapers.
“We agree with your statement that for many weeks you have sought input on the budget from nearly every member of the Senate Democratic caucus, often prefaced with the question of “What is it going to take for you to vote for the budget?” A well-put query, the responses to which we believe have fallen on deaf ears. Clearly, the answer lies in the best interests of Virginians, not the radical agenda of your party,” Saslaw and McEachin wrote.
They also said that Senate Democrats “are speaking loudly about how to come to agreement on the new biennial budget. We must fund the core responsibilities of government in a fair and just manner. The electorate voted a split in the Senate in hopes for centrism – not radical imbalance. As leaders, we take our stand for fiscal responsibility and for meeting the needs of Virginians very seriously. We are eager to work with you to craft a budget that works for all in our Commonwealth, rather than simply scoring partisan political points.”
You can read the rest of the letter here.