Has the House Caved?

This cryptic passage appears in an e-mailed press release issued around 9 a.m. today by Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, one of the conferees working on revisions to the state budget (my italics):

Based on the continuing constructive discussions between budget conferees for the House and Senate, I am confident that a budget agreement acceptable to both houses will be reached in advance of our regularly scheduled adjournment on Saturday, February 24.

The recent action by the conferees for the House on House Bill 3202, acceding to the Senate position on the amount of additional funding for transportation in the current budget – at least $500 million – removed what everyone recognized was the chief obstacle to a swift budget resolution. I concur with the widely reported sentiments of both conference committee chairmen – Senator Chichester and Delegate Callahan – that we are now in a far better posture to sort out any unresolved issues and achieve a timely budget compromise.

I’m not clear what this means. Does the $500 million constitute entirely new revenue? Is the General Fund off limits for transportation funding? If it turns out that the House has caved again, after already compromising once, the extremely loud noise you hear emanating from western Henrico County will not be a nuclear weapon or a volcanic eruption — it will be my head exploding.

Update: Chelyen Davis with the Free Lance-Star explains the significance of this development in her story yesterday. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t represent a terribly large shift in the House’s position. It eliminates one stumbling block in the transportation negotiations, but there are other issues to resolve.

Update II: Paul Nardo, on the Speaker’s staff, says the House did not “cave” but made a tactical concession to keep the negotiations moving, while preserving core budgetary goals. For priorities, click on “comments” and scroll to the third comment.

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4 responses to “Has the House Caved?”

  1. D.J. McGuire Avatar
    D.J. McGuire


    One thing it does mean, though, is that the back-and-forth between the budget conference and the transporation conference makes Chichester a de facto member of the latter. What that means for the abomination is anyone’s guess.

  2. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Several ledgislators have told me that what bills they pass are not that important to them because they can go back and “fix them” later. They are focused on passing something – anything . . .

    I don’t ascribe to such a process for governance, but it might help to shed light on this topic – as to WHY the House would be willing to surrender to the RINOs in the Senate.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Just looking around locally – I don’t see any GA House or Senate guys that will be particularily vulnerable

    .. of course that depends if there is strong challengers in the wings.

    From my experience that’s the key factor.

    If you don’t have a way to “grow” locals who can eventually challenge for higher office.. the incumbents hang on because most of the challengers are so awful… it becomes the less of the two evils.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Paul Nardo, Speaker’ Howell’s chief of staff, adds the following clarifying remarks:

    The $500 Million referenced in the release from Delegate Cox this morning is the surplus funding contained in HB 1650, the amendments to the 2006-2008 biennial budget. The House orginally had $566 Million while the Senate had $500 Million. Both include the $339 Million from the Transportation Reserve Fund from last year’s negotiations. The House had put in an additional $227 Million based on our position of dedicating 50% of this year’s surplus into transportation. Senate budget negotiators — mainly Senator Chichester — claimed that the $66 Million difference in between the two sides this year’s budget would hold up all work on the budget.

    Because the House and Senate negotiators on HB 3202 (the Transportation Reform and Funding Compromise being patroned by the Speaker) understand they are working towards an ongoing funding plan, they — and their colleagues on the budget conference — decided that acceding to the Senate position on the $66 million would be beneficial to completing work on the budget in a timely manner . . . without greatly sacrificing the progress we are making in finding solutions for Virginia’s transportation challenges. As part of the agreement between the negotiators of HB 3202, they unanimously voted yesterday morning to take off the $66 million in this year in exchange for taking out the diesel tax equalization in HB 3202, a component the House was reluctant to include in the first place. So, it was not caving on the part of the House, as General Funds are still and will remain in the transportation compromise. Rather, it was another compromise to move both the budget and transportation discussions forward.

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