Strong majority backs Virginia Senate budget
The Virginia Senate adopted a budget this afternoon on a 30 to 10 vote, making deep cuts to education, health care and public safety necessary to close a $4 billion two-year shortfall. But the chamber agreed to raise more than $300 million in fees and accept a proposal from Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to underfund pension plans for state and local employee by $508 million in the next two years.
The two moves free up revenues that allow the senate to cut less, particularly from education, than their colleagues in the House. The senate made only one substantive change in their budget as it came out of the Finance Committee on Sunday.
They agreed to a proposal by Republican senators to include language in the budget promising to pay back the pension plans in 10 years, instead of 30 as had been proposed by McDonnell. The shorter payment plan would mean spending $74 million a year to repay the plans, but paying less in interest in the end.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said he was "elated" by the vote on the budget. He earlier had predicted that the budget might pass with just 21 or 22 votes, and that his own caucus might be split. Instead, all 22 Democrats supported the budget, as did eight Republicans.
"It says that, by and large, in the end we forged a pretty good compromise," Saslaw said. "Do we differ on bills from time to time? Yeah. But I don't have an enemy over here. Not a one."
Ten Republicans voted against it. Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who voted against the budget, said he was opposed to the proposals to raise fees. "Many of them are broad-based and ... affect those who are least able to pay," he said.
The House and Senate will now spend the remainder of the legislative session resolving the differences in their budgets. Saslaw said the two chambers are "pretty far" apart and said there was "a real possibility" the session could go past March 13 as they work out their differences.
February 25, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate
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