Budget would hurt city

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

The House Republicans’ proposed interim, stopgap budget, which would fund state operations for one year as the General Assembly continues its ongoing dispute over tax increases, would hurt the city, local officials said.

The bill to extend appropriations from the current budget through June 30, 2005, without additional tax increases, would allow local governments to meet looming deadlines for drafting their budgets, supporters said.

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&uot;What the House is proposing will put us back in the same position the next time we come around to a budget,&uot; said Mayor E. Dana Dickens III. &uot;…The council is very much supportive of a budget being approved as quickly as possible so we’ll know how to plan for the upcoming year.&uot;

Martha McClees, the city’s lobbyist, said the proposal would continue to cause budget turmoil for the city.

&uot;What we have to do at the city level is assume we will get no more funding than we got last year,&uot; she said. &uot;Then we have to find a way to makeup for additional costs out of local revenue.&uot;

The proposal would freeze revenue streams that the city gets through the state, she said.

For example, a portion of the revenue made of the sale of alcohol is returned to the localities each year. The proposed bill would restrict the amount of funding the city gets back to what it received this year, even though alcohol sales are up in Suffolk.

Although she expects the bill to pass through the House of Delegates next week, McClees is doubtful it the Senate will support it.

Gov. Mark Warner has indicated he will veto it.

Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr., the bill’s co-sponsor, said the bill would allow localities to move ahead with planning budgets.

&uot;Simply put, local education administrators need to know what level of state funding they will have for the coming year. It is an understandable concern, and it is one that we, as responsible lawmakers, can and must address now, and not later,&uot; he said.

Late Tuesday, incredulous Democrats denounced the proposal during a 90-minute floor debate before the House recessed to allow its Appropriations Committee to consider the bill. The committee voted 14-3 to send the bill to the House floor for a preliminary vote next Tuesday and a final vote the next day.

&uot;This is ridiculous, folks,&uot; said Del. Albert C. Pollard Jr., D-Lancaster. &uot;We can’t pass a budget and your solution is to go to a continuing resolution?

&uot;Let’s not lob a hand grenade over to the Senate just so we can go back home and say, ‘Duh, well we passed something,’&uot; Pollard said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.