Here are Senator Dick Black‘s thoughts on the budget stalemate.
Not passing a budget will mean no funds to pay for teachers, police, hospitals, libraries, Medicare, or road projects. In addition, countless other state funded areas will all grind to a halt.
You can help prevent this!
For the first time since Virginia first instituted its biennial budget process in 1920, the General Assembly found itself without a budget bill to consider.
Senate Democrats, are refusing to pass a budget unless Republicans give them committee assignments that the voters did not give them at the ballot box in November. Democrats followed through with their threat and killed the budget today. Their action left the General Assembly in uncharted legislative territory with no clear way to resolve the impasse.
Although the Lieutenant Governor can break ties in the General Assembly, the Constitution does not give him the power to do so on enacting the state budget. Since passage of a budget requires 21 votes in the Senate, at least one Democrat and every Republican would have to vote for the budget. So far, every Republican has voted in favor of the Senate budget proposal, but no Democrat would do so.
During the previous stalemates, the General Assembly could not agree on the terms of a budget agreement, but negotiations continued over the specific details of a budget bill. This time there is no budget bill to discuss. Senate Democrats want to reorganize the Senate, despite it having been organized back on January 11. Their complaints are about the politics not the policies. See my thoughts in the issue here.
By derailing the budget process, Senate Democrats are effectively holding every core service the Commonwealth provides its citizens hostage. Frustratingly, the Senate budget plan was crafted with the extensive input and active collaboration of Senate Democrats. Democrats stripped virtually all the transportation funds out of the budget and demanded that they be added to already plentiful education funding. Yet, Democrats still refuse to pass the budget because they want certain committee assignments. Not passing a budget will mean no funds to pay teachers, police, hospitals, libraries, Medicare, road projects and countless other state funded areas will grind to a halt.
Is there a way out of this situation? At this point, it’s hard to see one. If the Senate Democrats continue to insist on holding the budget hostage until their demands unrelated to the budget are met, this could drag on for quite a while. Unless the public puts enough pressure on Senate Democrats to vote for a budget, Virginia is headed for disaster.
What can you do? Send a message to Senate Democrats demanding that they stop holding the budget hostage for political purposes and pass the budget now. Also, write letters to the editor in your local newspapers, comment in on-line papers, blog, and get the message to your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Virginians need to speak out before there is a government shut down.
With just one week left, everything is winding down fast. I’ll have a wrap-up for you next week, along with a report on the current budget standoff and the prospects for its resolution.
Senator Dick Black
Follow Senator Black on Facebook to keep up with events in Richmond, and please don’t hesitate to contact our office during the legislative session at (804) 698-7513.
Here is how the Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting the story.
While the politics of a state budget impasse have driven the debate in Richmond, an $85 billion, two-year spending plan hangs in the balance, and with it money for police and teachers, funding for localities and health-care funding for low-income Virginians.
That includes money for the CrossOver Health Care Ministry free clinic in South Richmond, where Christopher Harris wound up after bouncing between doctors to treat his epileptic seizures, paying out of pocket though he was out of work. He says he sought consistent care for years before a neurologist steered him to a program for the uninsured that led him last month to an exam room at the CrossOver clinic.
“Right now, it’s life and death,” said Harris’ wife, Amanda, who traveled with him from their home in Colonial Heights. “If he didn’t have this avenue to go down, then he wouldn’t have any.”
Half of the state’s support for 183 free clinics and community health centers was put on the chopping block for 2014, the second year of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed two-year budget. (continued here)