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Posted at 6:45 PM ET, 02/14/2011

Budget conference to meet with McDonnell as work of compromise begins

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Gov. Bob McDonnell has asked to meet Tuesday with the 12 senior senators and delegates assigned to work out a compromise between the two chambers' plans for amending the state's two-year budget. McDonnell requested a meeting with the budget conferees at 11 a.m., as they prepare to start their work. He has also asked to meet with the group for breakfast Thursday.

"The governor is working with the conferees and the money committee staff to provide information to facilitate a timely resolution of differences on the budget between the House and the Senate," said McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell.

The budget conferees held their first meeting Monday morning. Conferees said the 30-minute meeting was cordial and the group largely discussed scheduling future meetings. Facing each other across conference rooms on the General Assembly buildings will be familiar adversaries. Each side has reappointed the same budget negotiators as last year to work out their differences.

Representing the House are Dels. Lacey Putney (I-Bedford), Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Steve Landes (R-Augusta), Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Beverly Sherwood (R-Frederick) and Johnny S. Joannou (D-Portsmouth). From the Senate are Sens. Chuck Colgan (D-Prince William), R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania), Richard Saslaw, (D-Fairfax), Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), William Wampler (R-Bristol) and Walter Stosch (R-Henrico).

The House and Senate go into the conference process with wide differences between their priorities. Senators have largely chosen to apply new revenue made available by projections of higher-than-expected revenues to begin restoring deep cuts that were made during the recession to education and health care.

The House focused more on structural issues, proposing to deposit more into the state's rainy-day fund and embarking this year on pension reform. The House also accepted a proposal from McDonnell to spend $150 million in surplus cash on state roads.

On the House floor, Republican delegates distributed a handout on Monday that described what they termed a "Tale of Two Budgets." The sheet described their own plan as "fiscally responsible" and described the senate's proposal as engaging in a "culture of $pending."

Despite that ominous start, conferees said they do not believe the differences in the two chambers plans are intractable and predicted they would have little trouble finding compromise in time to adjourn Feb. 26 as scheduled.

"Sure, we're far apart," Houck said. "Sure, we'll get out of here on time."

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | February 14, 2011; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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