Twenty-four Days and Counting…

Not only is Virginia heading for a fiscal crisis, but it may be heading for a constitutional crisis as well. The Senate and House of Delegates managed to get budget talks back on track last week, but negotiations derailed faster than an Amtrak train in a snow storm. Judging by the exchange of letters released to the public, relations between the Senate and House budget conferees are as acrimonious as they’ve ever been.

There are 24 days left to patch together a budget before the fiscal year ends. Then the state enters a constitutional crisis. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine says he has the authority to keep basic state services running without a budget. But Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell says he does not. (Read the Washington Post coverage.)

Meanwhile, senior state lawmakers are due to visit bond rating agencies in New York. Virginia may be the best managed state in the country when the politicians are actually speaking to one another, but it’s not looking terribly well managed right now. Only two years ago, on the heels of the last recession, Virginia’s political class was consternated that the state’s AAA bond rating might be cut. Wouldn’t it be ironic if, despite the 2004 tax increase and a $1.5 billion surplus, the rating agencies cut Virginia’s bond rating anyway this year?

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15 responses to “Twenty-four Days and Counting…”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    It would appear given the deadlocks and disputes that have afflicted our General Assembly since 2001, the vaunted Republican majority is just not now nor has it ever been ready for prime time governing.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: ‘Ever’ is a bit of hyperbole. The RINOs are unfit to govern. That is for sure.

    The phony bond crisis of 04 was that Virginia could ‘only’ borrow $800m if the Commonwealth wanted to do so.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Why Mr. Atticus Bowden, if “ever” were hyperbole perhaps you could tell me when they did manage to govern–all by themselves, of course?

    The last time they did have a chance was in the 19th Century. As I recall the Republican and Readjuster movement failed then, too.

  4. kingfish Avatar

    The beauty of democracy is that people get the government they deserve. We in Virginia drank the Kool-aid and elected a bunch of culture warrior idealogues instead of good, pragmatic stewards. We get what we deserve.

  5. Chris Brancato Avatar
    Chris Brancato

    I believe that it would be better to imperil our bond rating than to pass a budget that continues the taxation practices of the past two general assemblies.

    I patently reject the idea that the only way out of this morass is to pass a budget that has a net tax increase.

    We have to get off this tax and spend merry-go-round. It’s time we Republicans return to our roots of fiscal conservancy.

  6. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: The GOP majority did fine with the Car Tax relief from the 2000 session until the 2002 session when they passed the 2002 Tax Scam.

    Also, I was being a bit hopeful that ‘ever’ means in the future too.

    I agree, that Republicans haven’t covered themselves in glory in the GA in the few years our Party has been in the majority. Getting rid of the old Dem retreads like His Lordship Sir John Chichester, Tommy Norment, etc. will improve the governance.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Yeah. You’re right in line with Vance Wilkins.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Getting rid of the old Dem retreads like His Lordship Sir John Chichester, Tommy Norment, etc. will improve the governance.

    From your lips to God’s ears, Mr. Brown!

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Old Dem Retreads I am aware of include Ronald Reagan, Mills Godwin, Lacey Putney….

    BTW down at the funny farm today not only did they make no progress on the new budget, it seems that the agreement on the “caboose bill” for the current fiscal year is unraveling. The Governor made a mistake offering amendments. It just gave them a new chance to screw it all up again.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Update: Reason prevailed on the “caboose bill” and the House backed off a last minute amendment that the Senate wouldn’t go along with, so at least that budget is done. Otherwise that bill would have ended up back in the conference committee again. To see this going on in Virginia now is truly an embarrassment. The Senate gave in on its main point weeks ago and if we reach July 1 with no budget, it is on the House’s head.

  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Ronald Reagan was a convert, a true believer, who actually believed the same stuff and the Dems left him.

    Virginia has Dem retreads who know the GOP stands for getting elected, but don’t know what the acronym means.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m just trying to fathom the mess we’re going to have if this isn’t settled by 7/1.

    If we really can’t pay anyone out of emergency funds, I’m trying to get my head around what that means – if I understand it correctly:

    no state police on duty

    no guards at the state prisons (and what are we going to do with the inmates?)

    no one to handle the patients at the state mental hospitals

    no one to handle the patients at the state REGULAR hospitals – MCV, UVA, etc. What happens to the patients?

    no one working at the state colleges for summer school or research or sending out transcripts and getting ready for the next year – and no classes at the community colleges

    all the state parks closed – I don’t thnk you can have them open w/o any staff (trash, safety, etc)

    no unemployment for the furloughed state workers, b/c isn’t that handled by state workers?

    most of the folks that give restaurant and well and septic permits furloughed

    state courts closed

    no one to fix the roads or finish temporary repairs or new construction

    a huge mess with figuring out pay and benefits for state workers, who are not going to be happy about this

    liquor stores all closed

    medical examiners and no state forensic lab specialists all gone home

    no one at Consolidated Labs to do rabies checks

    no public health people to do the kids’ back to school shots, or epidemiology for homeland security, or the school physicals for sports

    no one at the department of vital statistics – how will we get birth or death certificates?

    state lottery would be closed

    the Science Museum in Richmond would be closed

    the DMV would be closed

    the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts would be closed

    VRS retirement checks presumably won’t go out

    and probably a hundred things I haven’t thought of.

    I’ve seen folks say it won’t be any big deal. Personally, it sounds like a huge honking mess to me.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    After seeing the list of what would not be open and/or on duty… which I’m also
    quite sure is not complete…

    I’ll go out on a limb…. and predict… that this will not happen and what is
    really going on is the GA equivalent of two cars speeding towards each other
    until someone blinks.

    I’ll also predict… that the classic fall-back position for Virginia is the same one used by the Feds – continue the budget using last budget allocations… continuing resolution and all that stuff.

    On the actual issue of how much tax is enough – I find myself influenced by both sides arguments to a certain extent but I guess what I cannot understand is that all things being equal.. doesn’t population growth result in MORE tax revenues that would be allocated presumedly as they were before – in other words priorities remain the same in terms of allocations?

    If everyone – those already here plus our population growth is to pay HIGHER taxes – should there be an expectation on the part of taxpayers to receive MORE services … and of course…. what about those that are opposed to the government providing services that private industry could do – for less.

    This certainly goes for transportation where we talk about a “crisis” that can ONLY be solved by higher taxes and more government spending.

    Here’s an interesting article from Pilot Online:

    “The Pocahontas Parkway, a state-owned toll road that opened four years ago on Richmond’s outskirts, has been a financial flop. With traffic below projections, the nonprofit corporation that operates the road has struggled to avoid defaulting on its bonds.

    But salvation has come from an unlikely suitor – an Australian company called Transurban that has agreed to pay the Virginia Department of Transportation $522 million in exchange for a 99-year lease of the road.

    That an Australian company has agreed to spend $522 million on Pocahontas Parkway, a road that last year collected just $10.3 million in tolls.

    In exchange for the right to keep all parkway toll revenue, Transurban agreed to build a 1.6-mile, four-lane road to the Richmond International Airport , pending federal approval. It also will pay off the parkway’s debt and upgrade its electronic tolling equipment in anticipation of a rate increase expected in 2008.”

    So… I’d ask… why not replicate this approach to some of our more urgent transportation problems and get VDOT and the State of Virginia out of the business of collecting taxes… and apparently not knowing how to build even toll roads that will be cost-effective?

    Is this why the GA guys are playing “chicken” with the budget?

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    At 10:06 PM, Anonymous said..

    Wow…talk about hyperbole! None of what you wrote will happen.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    It may not happen – BUT, if we shut down the Virginia state government, that IS what will happen.

    I went to DHRM (the state human resources dept) and looked at the open jobs, to see what the state does.

    State employees, who will be off duty if the budget is not passed and Kaine does NOT move ahead, would include:

    the state police

    the staff and faculty of state universities and community colleges

    the public health staff of the state and localities of Virginia (most are state employees even if they are working in your local county – ask if you don’t believe) These are the folks that inspect your restaurants, give your kids their back to school shots, give the inspections for well and septic installation, and investigate many dog bites.

    the folks at the state department of vital statistics (birth and death certificates)

    the staff and guards at the state prisons

    the nurses, doctors, and other staff at the state teaching hospitals, such as MCV and UVA

    the nurses, doctors, and staff at the state mental facilities

    the staff at our state parks

    the folks who distribute unemployment, disability, and state retirement checks

    the judges and employees of our state courts

    the folks at VDOT

    all the folks at the ABC stores

    all the folks at the Virginia lottery

    the state and regional medical examiners and the state forensic lab specialists

    the staff at the state museums

    the folks at the DMV

    And if you can’t pay the state workers, you cannot have contractors working either, because that is incurring debt whether you pay them immediately or not.

    Go look at DHRM and the state courts system (separate HR dept) and see what the state folks do, and who all you’re talking about furloughing.

    Then try to tell me that shutting down the state government isn’t going to be noticed by the average citizen. They’ll notice. And the ones that get really hurt by this, for whatever reason (see above) are going to be pretty ticked off. Not only will it tick off a huge number of state employees and their families, but also the folks on state retirement (which I believe also includes many folks retired from localities under VRS), an awful lot of just regular citizens, and an awful lot of businesses.

    This isnt’ hyperbole. Look at what the state government actually does.

    Shutting the state government down is not an idea that’s going to help get votes in November. Unless you mean helping get votes for your opponent.

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