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Lawmakers find little budget agreement at AP Day

Rosalind Helderman

Partisan divides were on full display this morning at the Capitol, where two top budget negotiators from opposite parties joined one another on a panel on the state budget for 60 reporters and editors at the annual AP Day in Richmond. It's an orientation day hosted by the Associated Press for reporters leading up the legislative session in January.

Sen. Janet Howell (D) and Del. Kirk Cox (R) both promised the two parties--and the Senate and House of Delegates--would cooperate in the most difficult budget situation since the Great Depression. But when they got into the heart of problem facing the state, there were few areas of agreement.

For instance, Howell said the Senate has little appetite to privatize state liquor stores, a key campaign promise of Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell. She said the state gets too much in ongoing revenue from liquor sales to justify the one-time windfall that might be collected from selling the stores. Cox promised the House would examine McDonnell's proposal carefully and expressed confidence he could craft a proposal that would find favor.

Meanwhile, Cox promised the House would turn back any tax increase included in the budget by Gov. Tim Kaine (D), including adjusting the amount spent by the state on car tax relief. Cox said he did not want to go as far as saying such a proposal would be "irresponsible, but it's close." Howell said Kaine must construct the best budget he can and then submit it to lawmakers for their approval.

One area of possible agreement--both Howell and Cox suggested the General Assembly might offer school systems the ability to have certain funding requirements waived during the downturn, to help localties save money.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 8, 2009; 1:18 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Rosalind Helderman  
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