In a surprise move, Senate moves budget forward
It was a hectic, unpredictable 48 hours at the State Capitol. It started with what was expected to be an easy passage of a compromise of the state budget. But like many other votes in this crazy session, Senate democrats united to turn the spending plan back. It led to calls of gloom and doom and what Governor Bob McDonnell coined “fiscal irresponsibility.”
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon, during what appeared to be a sleepy veto session. In what seemed like just a few minutes, The budget vote was brought back, this time with veteran democrat Chuck Colgan voting with the republicans. That one vote enough to break a serious deadlock and put a budget stuck in neutral back on the fast track.
The vote itself, was only part of the drama, as I explain in my story for NBC12 Senator Harry Blevins had to be rushed back to the Capitol for the final vote:
RICHMOND (WWBT)- After a bleak picture just 24 hours before, Virginia is one step closer to a final budget. Wednesday at the State Capitol, the Senate passed the measure by just one vote.
What changed was the mind of one veteran democratic senator. Sen. Chuck Colgan (Manassas) voted with his party Tuesday to hold up the budget, Wednesday he decided it was time to move the process on, capping a remarkable 24 hours at Capitol Square.
There was no special deal, no grand bargain, just a senator with a mind of his own who decided the imperfect budget was good enough to pass through to the next phase of negotiations.
Governor Bob McDonnell gave Colgan all the credit.
“He has said for some time that he understands very well that we need to have a budget and the later we go in this process the more uncertainty and unpredictability and hardship that a lack of a budget will work on the citizens of Virginia,” the governor said.
Colgan’s change of heart shocked nearly everyone, including Chesapeake Senator Harry Blevins who was en route to the bedside of his ailing wife.
When the vote was being reconsidered, the State Police put out an all points bulletin to alert Blevins about his need to return to Richmond. He rushed back in time to vote, and then was flown by state helicopter to hospital where is where his wife is being treated.
….read and see the story on NBC12.com
Meanwhile the governor’s attitude toward the budget process has improved greatly. On Tuesday he warned about a shrinking timeline and a dangerous fiscal position the legislature was putting the Commonwealth. Wednesday, after getting the Senate approval, McDonnell said that compared to the budget battles of 2004 and 2006, there is quite a bit of time to go through the amendment process.
That is right, we aren’t done yet. McDonnell will now carefully review the final legislative compromise and offer up his amendments. His changes will once again need the approval of the legislature. Which means this battle could begin all over again.
A portion of McDonnell’s reaction to the budget vote can be seen below:
The Senate democrats did not release a statement in reaction to the budget vote, but the House democratic statement can be found after the jump:
Virginia House Democrats Statement on the Passage of the 2012-2014 Biennial Budget
Richmond – Today the State Senate adopted the two year budget 2012-2014 (HB2013). The Senate has not adopted the budget bill that determines spending for the remainder of this fiscal year (HB1300).
“We said on several occasions that this budget would come in due course,” said Democratic Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville). “With a budget in place, our schools and local governments will be able to adopt their own budgets well in advance of the close of the fiscal year. This budget took longer than we would have hoped, but in the end, we have a far superior budget to the document presented by the Governor in December.”
“The Governor proposed taking $100 million from public education and public safety to finance transportation, slashed the health care safety net, and cut millions from the cost of competing funding for hard to staff positions in public school,” said Caucus Chairman Mark Sickles (D-Franconia). “While this is not the budget that we would have crafted, it is a vast improvement over the original proposal.
We remain hopeful that we can find a solution to the funding dilemma on the Dulles Toll Road and provide toll relief to the families who will face high skyrocketing tolls without additional assistance from the Commonwealth.”