Dems put Virginia in jeopardy

Published 9:11 pm Monday, March 5, 2012

By Chris Jones

I have had the honor to serve the citizens of the 76th District since 1998. In my 14 years in the House, we are currently in uncharted territory because, with less than a week remaining in the 2012 General Assembly session, there isn’t a budget bill to negotiate. Senate Democrats have defeated both budget bills that have come before them, leaving the General Assembly at a standstill on the budget.

There have been budget standoffs in years past, including 2001, 2004 and 2006; however, those disagreements were over specific items in the budget, and those disagreements did not involve one party in one chamber completely blocking progress on the budget.

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In the House of Delegates, we worked with Democrats to pass a fiscally responsible budget with bipartisan support. During the floor debate on the House Budget, House Minority Leader David Toscano publicly thanked Republicans for including Democrats in the process and for having the opportunity to give their input.

There is a lot to like in the House budget for both sides of the aisle. The House budget is structurally balanced and contains targeted funding increases in core areas of government including job growth, education, public safety and health care, all without raising taxes or fees.

Even the House Democrat Caucus Chairman said after the budget vote that many of the Democrats’ no votes were not “super hard no” votes against the House Budget and went on to explain the reasons why some ultimately voted against it. In the end, one third of the House Democrats joined with House Republicans in supporting the House Budget that passed on a 79-21 vote.

In stark contrast to the actions in the House of Delegates, Senate Democrats have voted twice against the passage of a state budget and brought the budget process to a standstill. With Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling unable to cast a tie-breaking vote on budget matters, Senate Democrats have used this opportunity to obstruct the budget process.

Senate Democrats have openly admitted they are blocking progress on the budget process until they receive better committee assignments. On the first day of the session, Lt. Gov. Bolling exercised his constitutional authority to cast a tie-breaking vote to organize Senate committees.

Despite the Senate Democrats’ best efforts to hold up the budget process, all House Democrats joined with House Republicans on Thursday to support Delegate Lacey Putney’s motion to introduce new budget bills and keep the budget process moving. This late in session, a delegate needs unanimous consent of all delegates to introduce new legislation.

What would it mean if Virginia did not pass a budget by July 1? Simply put, funding for most all state employees and agencies would cease, and state government would essentially shut down.

Each day the Senate Democrats block passage of a state budget, they put at risk funding for schools, roads and more. Virginia colleges, universities and public schools are in the process of developing their budgets and need to know how much state funding to expect.

Each day Senate Democrats refuse to pass a budget, they are adding to the growing uncertainty among our local boards of supervisors, city councils, school boards and boards of visitors as they try to budget for the next fiscal year.

Each day they refuse to pass a budget, they are forcing our state government one step closer to a potential shutdown.

We have less than a week left before we are scheduled to adjourn. We all must work together to fulfill our obligation to all Virginians to pass a state budget. As time dwindles, I hope Senate Democrats will change their minds and move forward in a sensible manner — “The Virginia Way”— to ensure Virginia’s government is working to meet its responsibilities to the citizens of the commonwealth.

Delegate Chris Jones serves Suffolk in the General Assembly. While he is in Richmond, he can be reached at (804) 698-1076 or at