No break in bud­get im­passe as Democrats list de­mands

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND | There is “zero” chance that the Gen­eral Assem­bly will pass a new twoyear bud­get by its sched­uled Satur­day ad­journ­ment, the Se­nate’s top Demo­crat said Wed­nes­day as the cau­cus laid out a de­tailed list of de­mands to Gov. Bob Mcdon­nell be­fore Demo­cratic Cau­cus mem­bers will con­sider a vote on a spend­ing plan.

The de­mands is­sued by Demo­cratic lead­er­ship in­clude in­dex­ing the state’s gas tax to in­fla­tion, spar­ing women hav­ing abortions from pay­ing for manda­tory ul­tra­sounds, and pro­vid­ing $576,000 to the Univer­sity of Virginia for le­gal fees as­so­ci­ated with Re­pub­li­can At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken­neth T. Cuc­cinelli II’S in­quiry into a for­mer univer­sity cli­ma­tol­o­gist. (The Univer­sity spent pri­vate funds to de­fend it­self in the case.)

“We hope this cor­re­spon­dence pro­vides the nec­es­sary in­sight for you to get pos­i­tively in­vested in the bud­get process,” wrote Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fair­fax Demo­crat, and cau­cus Chair­man A. Don­ald Mceachin, Hen­rico Demo­crat. “This is­sue will not be re­solved in the me­dia or on the air­waves.”

The let­ter comes a day af­ter a bi­par­ti­san


work­ing group of House and Se­nate mem­bers be­gan dis­cus­sions in an at­tempt to break an im­passe on the pro­posed twoyear, $85 bil­lion pro­posal.

Democrats have been push­ing for a power-shar­ing deal in the evenly di­vided Se­nate since the first day of the ses­sion, when Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Re­pub­li­can, used his tie-break­ing vote to help the GOP or­ga­nize as a work­ing ma­jor­ity.

So what would hap­pen if the Democrats were granted ev­ery­thing on their wish list, even with­out power-shar­ing?

“We’d prob­a­bly be vot­ing for the bud­get,” Mr. Saslaw said. “This would prob­a­bly move it pretty close to a vote.”

But Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Thomas K. Nor­ment Jr., James City Re­pub­li­can, said ac­ced­ing to ev­ery­thing out­lined in the let­ter would be a non­starter.

“They have to ap­pre­ci­ate, in spite of all the rhetoric and dem­a­goguery, that they are in a func­tional mi­nor­ity in the Se­nate of Virginia,” Mr. Nor­ment said. “I know that’s a bit­ter pill to swal­low, but a fact is a fact is a fact that they are. I ap­pre­ci­ate the let­ter, but the 57th day [of the ses­sion]? Give me a break.”

The Democrats also want $66 mil­lion re­stored for a “cost-of­com­pet­ing ad­just­ment” (COCA) to go to North­ern Virginia school em­ploy­ees to off­set the area’s higher cost of liv­ing, and they want any lan­guage that would re­strict union- friendly la­bor agree­ments on state-funded con­struc­tion projects stricken from the bud­get.

The Se­nate bud­get re­stored $42 mil­lion for the COCA fund­ing from the orig­i­nal bud­get pro­posal by Mr. Mcdon­nell, a Re­pub­li­can. The project la­bor agree­ment (PLA) is­sue has been a ma­jor stick­ing point for the gov­er­nor’s will­ing­ness to put up an ad­di­tional $150 mil­lion in state money for Phase 2 of the Dulles Metro­rail project. The Gen­eral Assem­bly al­ready has passed leg­is­la­tion that would bar state­funded projects from man­dat­ing such an agree­ment, used be­tween con­trac­tors and la­bor groups to set the terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment.

“They burnt down the whole house, and sud­denly they’re con­cerned about what hap­pened to some of the fur­ni­ture?” said McDon­nell spokesman J. Tucker Martin, adding that the list of de­mands was “at least a start,”

“Se­nate Democrats do seem to be fi­nally re­al­iz­ing there is an im­por­tant job to be done in pass­ing a bud­get in a timely man­ner, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Mr. Saslaw said there likely still would have to be some com­mit­tee shake-ups to break the im­passe com­pletely, but Mr. Nor­ment said that’s an­other de­bate for an­other time.

“I can­not al­low them to po­lit­i­cally ex­tort a po­si­tion on a bud­get to get po­lit­i­cal power, be­cause once you do it, then they’ll come back next year when we need bud­get amend­ments, say­ing, ‘We’re not go­ing to sup­port these bud­get amend­ments un­less you give us this,’ ” he said. “I am not go­ing to suc­cumb to that.”

The 20 mem­bers of the Se­nate Demo­cratic Cau­cus have suc­cess­fully hung to­gether twice — first re­ject­ing their own ver­sion of the bud­get, then the House of Del­e­gates’ ver­sion, as Mr. Bolling has ruled that he can­not break tie votes on the bud­get. Repub­li­cans would need only one cross­over to end the im­passe. That’s not go­ing to hap­pen, Mr. Saslaw said.

“No­body in our cau­cus is go­ing to crack, OK?” he said. “Name five peo­ple in our cau­cus they ain’t gon’ to [be] of­fer­ing the sun and the moon. And they’ve all been told ‘no.’ ”


Sen. Wal­ter A. Stosch (left), chair­man of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, con­fers with Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Thomas K. Nor­ment Jr. dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s floor ses­sion. With ad­journ­ment set for Satur­day, there is no agree­ment on a bud­get.


D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Phil Men­del­son asks D.C. Fire Chief Ken­neth Ellerbe ques­tions at the John A. Wil­son Build­ing in Washington, D.C., on Wed­nes­day.

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