Record-Setting General Assembly Session

By: Althea Paul
By: Althea Paul

May 8, 2006

It's been about two months since the General Assembly's original session was supposed to end, and still we have no budget.

2006 is not the first year state lawmakers have failed to pass a budget within the regular session. However, this year has set a record for the longest amount of time.

"I think I share every body's frustration," said 58th District delegate Rob Bell.

"I'm very disappointed and a little disturbed that we haven't gotten a budget yet," said 57th District delegate David Toscano.

This all comes down to a transportation plan, in which the House and the Senate remain at odds over. Last week a House committee tabled four Senate transportation bills for 90 days, putting things at a standstill.

"Looking in the General Assembly this year, the way that it's such a strong difference of opinion," said communications director of the UVa Center for Politics, Matt Smyth.

The Senate wants a four-year plan with new taxes, and the House is opting for a two-year plan using money from the general fund, and it seems both sides are just not budging.

"I think that we have a real debate over whether this is a good time to raise gas taxes. We think not, the Senate thinks yes. We can deal with that, win or lose, yes or no, but the real problem is [that] it's holding up the rest of the budget. So I'm hopeful that at some point calmer heads will prevail and they will say 'let's at least pass the rest of it. We'll deal with the gas tax question later,'" said delegate Bell.

"Some folks are concerned that if you do it that way you will never get a transportation plan and we will have missed a golden opportunity to solve the commonwealth's transportation problems," said delegate Toscano.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds says Virginia's transportation need is overwhelming and this new record is not one to be proud of, but lawmakers are hopeful.

"I'd like to think that cooler heads will prevail and we'll find a way to have a compromise," said Toscano.

"If you base it on history, the likelihood is that they'll come to some agreement before that deadline, because they've done it in the past," said Smyth.

The state budget runs out June 30. If a budget is not passed by then, Gov. Kaine would have to take over and start spending money for emergency services. Cities and State towns that also rely on State funds would also suffer.

State lawmakers are slated to head back to Richmond on Wednesday, and the Senate will resume on Friday.

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