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Posted at 4:06 PM ET, 02/26/2011

General Assembly will extend its regular session

By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman

The Virginia General Assembly was unable to complete revisions to the state's two-year budget Saturday and announced plans to extend its annual legislative session.

"We're dealing with huge amounts of money in a very short amount of time,'' House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said. "If we go over a day or two, I don't think that's significant at all."

House and Senate negotiators continued meeting Saturday, but differences in public safety and social services spending still remained.

"There's work going on,'' Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) said. "We're not finished, but work continues. It could be resolved rather quickly. It could still drag out for a while."

The 46-day session was scheduled to end Saturday. It will be the sixth session extension in a decade at a cost of about $20,000 a day for each additional day.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) spoke to legislators Saturday and encouraged them to "reach a quick resolution,'' his spokesman Tucker Martin said.

McDonnell (R) is scheduled to be in Washington Sunday and Monday for events for the National Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association, including a meeting at the White House with President Obama.

The Democratic-led Senate wants to finish the budget and then return to the Capitol after a one- or two-day break. But the Republican-led House prefers to return and vote on the budget Sunday after staff members review and print the budget.

"People talk about how they need two days to read through it -- that's baloney,'' Howell said. "First of all, I don't think anyone's going to read through it all. But, secondly, yeah, you've got a bill that's thick, but the changes in it you can go through in a lot less time than that."

The House and Senate agreed to pump $75 million in new money into K-12 education and $32 million from the general fund into transportation, according to some senators and delegates.

"We shoot the basketball and they move the hoop," Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said. "We're real near in some area areas -- and in some, we're not close at all."

Last year, legislators extended its session by one day to finish work on the state's two-year, $78-billion budget. This year, budget conferees began meeting Feb. 14 as they looked to make hundreds of changes to the state's spending plan.

By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman  | February 26, 2011; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate, William Howell  
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