Se­nate panel ap­proves bud­get

Mcdon­nell ‘op­ti­mistic’ about res­o­lu­tion af­ter stale­mate

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

RICH­MOND| An amended bud­get that pro­vides $300 mil­lion in ad­di­tional funds for the Dulles Metro­rail project and mil­lions more for K-12 and pre-k ed­u­ca­tion passed the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously Thurs­day as a lin­ger­ing stale­mate took a step closer to res­o­lu­tion.

The full Se­nate could vote on its bud­get Mon­day, af­ter which it would re­turn to the House for a vote there. A small group of con­fer­ees from both cham­bers then would meet to hash out dif­fer­ences be­tween the Se­nate ver­sion of the bud­get and the House ver­sion.

“I re­main hopeful that in fairly short or­der they will have this re­solved,” Gov. Bob Mcdon­nell said Thurs­day on his monthly ap­pear­ance on WRVA-AM ra­dio in Rich­mond. “I’m op­ti­mistic that maybe in a week or so it’ll be done.”

Law­mak­ers, ham­pered by a dis­pute over power and pol­icy, did not pass a new two-year, $85 bil­lion bud­get dur­ing the 60-day reg­u­lar ses­sion that ended March 10.

While some Repub­li­cans bris­tled at Democrats’ de­mands to in­crease state spend­ing on items such as Med­i­caid and K-12 ed­u­ca­tion with­out spec­i­fy­ing where cuts would be made else­where, the Se­nate pro­posal did not add any new dol­lars to the bud­get, said Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Wal­ter A. Stosch, Hen­rico Re­pub­li­can. It sim­ply di­verts money that had gone to other items, such as $20 mil­lion that was to serve as a con­tin­gency for po­ten­tial cut­backs in fed­eral spend­ing and $60 mil­lion from a na­tional mort­gage set­tle­ment case that was trans­ferred from gen­eral aid to lo­cal­i­ties into more specif­i­cally tar­geted fund­ing in K-12 and pre-k pro­grams.

Mr. Stosch said he and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Thomas K. Nor­ment Jr., James City Re­pub­li­can, de­liv­ered the list of items Wed­nes­day to Del­e­gate Lacey E. Put­ney, Bed­ford in­de­pen­dent, and House Ma­jor­ity Leader M. Kirk­land Cox, Colo­nial Heights Re­pub­li­can, two of the House bud­get con­fer­ees.

One con­tro­ver­sial is­sue — whether the state will cover ul­tra­sound imag­ing that will now be re­quired of women elect­ing to un­dergo abortions — re­mains out­stand­ing.

Se­nate Cau­cus Chair­man A. Don­ald Mceachin, Hen­rico Demo­crat, said he ex­pects a floor amend­ment to be in­tro­duced Mon­day on the mat­ter.

“That amend­ment will man­date in­sur­ance cov­er­age for those who aren’t in­sured,” he said. “The state will pick up the cost.”

The amount would to­tal about $3 mil­lion over two years, he said.

Fa­cil­i­ties that per­form more than five abortions per month would not have ac­cess to that money, he said — a con­ces­sion to Repub­li­cans who do not want to see state money go to­ward Planned Par­ent­hood.

Most of the new amend­ments, which also re­stored fund­ing for teen preg­nancy preven­tion and poi­son con­trol cen­ters, passed with­out de­bate. But one pro­posal that at­tempted to de­lay the im­ple­men­ta­tion of tolls in Hamp­ton Roads ran­kled Mr. Nor­ment, who said that if such an amend­ment passed, they might as well get rid of the Com­mon­wealth Trans­porta­tion Board, which sets the ad­min­is­tra­tive poli­cies for the state’s trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

Sen. John C. Watkins, Powhatan Re­pub­li­can, said he would sup­port the amend­ment — if only to demon­strate how woe­fully in­ad­e­quate the state’s fund­ing for trans­porta­tion has be­come.

“We can­not keep do­ing this,” he said. “I think I’m go­ing to pass this be­cause I want it handed right back to the ex­ec­u­tive branch of gov­ern­ment. We need some lead­er­ship here.”

Mr. Nor­ment said af­ter the vote that he was sym­pa­thetic to such ar­gu­ments, but to al­low the de­lay would set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent.

“I have been in those fights for many, many years, and I’m not reluc­tant to en­gage in them again,” he said. “But there is a cer­tain frus­tra­tion where you don’t have an ex­pec­ta­tion

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