House and Senate negotiators say budget deal is close
House and Senate negotiators inched closer late Friday to reaching a deal on Virginia's two-year budget, which will likely allow the General Assembly to pass the spending plan this weekend.
They say they have come to general terms on which proposed fees to eliminate and how much to spend on key areas, including K-12 education and public safety. But legislators did not release details of the deal, saying they were still in flux.
Much of the negotiations took place privately in a small meeting room in the General Assembly Building. State law requires budget conferees to meet in public if more than six (three from each chamber) are present, but Sen. Ed Houck, a conferee and vice chairman of the FOIA advisory council, said they left the door ajar for anyone to come in.
They will continue to work Friday night and Saturday. They are racing to finish before Saturday, the last scheduled day of the 60-day legislative session, but a final deal on the budget was unlikely until Saturday.
That would mean the General Assembly would not be able to vote on the budget until Sunday, extending the session by one day at a cost of roughly $20,000 a day. It would be the fifth session extension in a decade.
The lawmakers have been struggling to overcome a $4 billion shortfall caused by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The budget will include deep cuts to education, health services and public safety and hundreds of layoffs.
March 12, 2010; 11:43 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar
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