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UPDATED: Senate in effect kills McDonnell priority bills on oil revenue, budgeting

Rosalind Helderman

Voting essentially along party lines, the Virginia senate today essentially killed two bills that were among Gov. Bob McDonnell's top priorities. The senators sent the bills back to committee where they will not be considered until next year. One measure had been formally submitted by McDonnell; the other was not formally an administration bill but was a priority he supports.

McDonnell's bill would have set into law how Virginia would spend royalties produced by drilling for oil off Virginia's coast, if the U.S. Congress were to change current law and allow Virginia to share in the royalties. McDonnell campaigned on the idea that transportation improvements could be paid for partly out of future oil royalties.

The second bill would have changed Virginia's two-year budget cycle so that governors would submit their two year budgets at the end of their first and third years in office, instead of the end of their second and fourth years.

That way, governors would not submit a two-year budget to the legislature just before leaving office, as Gov. Tim Kaine (D) did in December. The bill was not written by the administration, but McDonnell recently joined with former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) to propose exactly this change.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw denied his party was trying to send any message to the governor with its votes. "I have voted for a lot of the governor's stuff in committee," he said. But regardless, the moves mean two McDonnell priorities are likely dead for the year.

Debate was more vigorous on the oil royalty bill. Republicans who supported the measure said it would send an important message that Virginia wants to receive oil royalties and is prepared to receive them if Congress changes its law.

"I think we stand forward today and say, yes, we want our share of that royalty money. Yes we want it, and here's how we think it ought to be spent," said Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), who was carrying the bill for the governor.

Democrats argued the likelihood of any royalty money materializing is slim, given Congress' vigorous opposition to changing the law. Passing the bill would only provide false hope that drilling will soon give Virginia new dollars. "This bill does not deal with green bucks. It deals with Monopoly money. It deals with money that's not there," said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), making an argument that echoed his recent campaign against McDonnell.

Tucker Martin, McDonnell's spokesman, reacted strongly to the chamber's rejection of the bill. "Senate Democrats put their partisan interests ahead of the best interests of Virginians. The Governor, United States Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and Virginians statewide support environmentally-safe offshore energy production and the new jobs and hundreds of millions in new revenue it will create. Senate Democrats need to explain why they keep saying no to jobs and economic development in the Commonwealth," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Democrats also voted 21 to 19 to send the budget bill back to committee and pass it by for this year. Saslaw said some members felt the change should come along with changing Virginia's constitution to allow governors to serve for two terms. He also said the current cycle allows senators to work on two full two-year budgets before they face reelection, which changing the cycle would disrupt.

UPDATE 5:56 p.m.: Martin has also released a statement about the budget measure: "Governor McDonnell, former Virginia governors and current legislators from both parties and business and policy leaders all strongly support the non-partisan proposal to reform Virginia's budget development process. Senate Democrats have said no to a simple reform that would improve the budget process. The Governor will continue to strongly advocate this procedural reform."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 10, 2010; 2:54 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Senate Democrats: The Party of "No"

Posted by: VABlogger | February 11, 2010 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Poor Bobby. Now he knows how it feels.

Homophobic Christo-fascist.

Posted by: BigDaddyD | February 11, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Guess frustration goes both ways. They want to pass a bill of false hope (monopoly money). How does saying no to a bill that has no funding (just promises) is the same as saying no to jobs and economic development in the Commonwealth? Buzz words yet again.

Posted by: hadelaide | February 11, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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