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Va Senate reverses course, passes budget by one Democratic vote

A day after rejecting a state budget bill for the third time, state senators have reconsidered their vote and passed the budget, by one Democratic vote.

Sen. Chuck Colgan, D-Prince William, changed his vote, giving the bill 21 votes to pass.

The vote — made with no comment and no speeches — capped off a day of private meetings between Senate leaders, seeking a compromise on the Dulles toll road money that caused Democrats to reject the budget on Tuesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether a deal was reached, or Colgan simply changed his mind. Earlier today he said senators had been talking privately and he hoped to settle the issue today.

Democrats had unanimously voted down the two-year, $85 billion spending bill on Tuesday, insisting that additional money to mitigate tolls for the Dulles rail project be included.

Republicans and Gov. Bob McDonnell were furious, accusing Democrats of holding the budget hostage out of partisan concerns and to benefit one project in one part of the state.

McDonnell called it “the most fiscally irresponsible act” he’d seen in his political career. Senate Republicans accused their Democratic counterparts of putting enormous pressure on Colgan, an 85-year-old senior legislator who had been expected to vote for the budget on Tuesday.

Failure to pass a budget would have put local governments in a tight spot, as they’re writing their own budgets now and need to know how much state money to expect. Teacher contracts are also due in the next month or so, and last week transportation officials warned road contractors that they’d have to start shutting down projects in May if a budget deal was not reached.

While the Senate voted down the bill on Tuesday, procedural rules allow someone who voted “on the prevailing side” to revive a bill in certain cases.

That’s what happened today — Colgan, who’d voted against it Tuesday, moved to reconsider it, and all 40 senators voted to do so. The vote to pass the bill was 21-19.

The Senate must still figure out how to handle the “caboose” budget, a separate bill that made spending changes for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The Senate is still on the floor, dealing with the governor’s vetoes and amendments to other bills from the regular session. We’ll have more information as it becomes available.