March 10, 2006
The Virginia House and Senate worked overtime today to come to an agreement on a budget before the end of the general assembly session, which was supposed to be Saturday. There's a $1 billion difference between the budget the House has come up with and the one the Senate has come up with.
Friday delegates from our area said that both chambers are in agreement on just about everything, except for transportation and just how to fund it. Transportation is, of course, Governor Kaine's primary focus right now, but democrats and republicans are split on how to come up with the funds. Democrats back the governor on a tax increase, while republicans are looking into funding from other sources. Both sides say they will fight day and night to prevent a budget standoff like the one in 2004 that lasted for 115 days.
"The thing we have to watch for is [that] we don't raid general fund moneys that go for public safety, for education, for the community colleges in order to fund transportation. There are elements in the House Republican plan that do that. We can't allow that to happen," said Delegate David J. Toscano, a democrat from the 57th district.
"The House and I believe that it's irresponsible to raise taxes when you're sitting on the biggest surplus in Virginia history and just finished the biggest tax increase in Virginia history two years ago," said Delegate Rob Bell, a republican from the 58th district. "The gas tax is what they're talking about. There's also a proposed tax increase for the guarantors tax, which is when people sell their houses. So these are taxes that are really going to affect people back home."
Legislators will have only Saturday left to come to an agreement. But on Friday delegates said it looked very unlikely that there would be an agreement by the end of the session.
If a special session is called, it will likely be held this coming May.