June 7, 2006
The budget battle in Richmond is entering its 149th day, and still the House and Senate have no agreement. Even with June 30th approaching and the threat of a government shutdown a possibility, Governor Tim Kaine remains hopeful.
"We were all very optimistic that we are going to have a resolution. In fact, the conferees yesterday reached agreement on a caboose bill to send to my desk. [That is] a positive thing," said Governor Tim Kaine.
It is a positive step in what has become a stressful time. Governor Kaine spent the day in New York trying to convince credit agencies that the Commonwealth remains economically stable despite the budget impasse. According to Delegate Vince Callahan, the agencies were responsive.
"They deal with a lot of states and a lot of states don't get their budgets on time. We haven't reached the crisis point yet," he said.
However, the crisis point is nearing. The current budget expires June 30 and without a new one, the state could close its doors on its nearly 100,000 employees and many services. Delegate Rob Bell says he hopes that won't be necessary.
"We still have some small differences between the House and Senate budgets but I am certainly hopeful they can be resolved in the next week or two," he said.
The two sides remain deadlocked over funding a comprehensive transportation plan. While the Governor's trip with the two top budget negotiators did not wield a compromise, he says strides were made.
"You know I don't have a napkin that I can hold up with a deal on it but I think it was just a very productive way to spend time," Governor Kaine said.
The Governor has said that he plans to invoke executive power to fund necessary programs if the impasse continues. Tomorrow, Attorney General Bob McDonnell plans to announce if he thinks that executive power is legal under Virginia's Constitution.
The proposed transportation plan accounts for less than 3% of the state's $74 billion budget.