What’s the Governor Waiting For?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

At the reconvened session on April 27, Governor Youngkin returned 116 bills to the General Assembly with recommended amendments. Legislators accepted the Governor’s recommendations on 91 of those bills. The remaining 25 bills were returned to him as originally passed.

The Governor has three options for each of these remaining bills: sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. The deadline for him to take action is midnight, May 27.

What is the Governor waiting for? Yes, he still has 11 days before the deadline, but it was only 25 bills and he has had 19 days to consider them. He already had a folder with notes on each bill. Actually, the batch sent back included several sets of duplicate bills; therefore he has fewer than 25 legislative proposals to act on. Furthermore, he probably knew before he returned the bills which ones he was not going to approve if his recommendations were not accepted.

Ordinarily, there would be no rush. But this year is different. The House and Senate are deadlocked over the budget and the clock is ticking on the June 30 deadline for the biennium.

The Democrats, especially the ones in the Senate, are especially miffed over the Governor vetoing many of their bills earlier. I suggested earlier that, before getting down to serious talks on the budget, Senate Democrats would wait until  they saw what the Governor did with the bills they returned to him. There have not been public reports of the budget conferees even meeting. Of course, a lot of these talks occur out of public view and through staff, but if any significant progress or breakthroughs had been made, word would have gotten out. The underground Capitol annex is not the only thing on Capitol Square that leaks.

The longer the Governor waits, the less time there will be to come to an agreement on the budget. Perhaps this is strategy from the Governor’s experience in business negotiations: give the other fellow a deadline and give him as little time as possible to act, with the idea that he will fold or compromise under pressure. If this is the strategy, it will be interesting to see how that gamble plays out.