Budget crunch time

Published 10:04 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Democrats are claiming it is because of proposed cuts to education and social services.

Republicans, who control both chambers in the General Assembly, refuse to compromise on power sharing in an evenly divided Senate.

Regardless of who’s to blame, it appears that Virginia’s legislators will collectively fail to produce a budget by the scheduled adjournment of the regular session this Saturday.

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The rancorous debate over how much to tax and how best to spend is as commonplace today in Richmond as it has ever been in Washington, yet unlike years past where political gridlock and the General Assembly’s failure to produce a budget in timely fashion had relatively little negative impact on local communities, the implications of this year’s impasse could have substantial impact on an already challenging budget season here at home.

Local lawmakers are already scrambling to find ways to pay for additional unfunded state mandates this year as they contemplate their new annual budgets, which in Suffolk will include at least an estimated $2.1-million funding increase to school employees’ retirement funds.

Until it is known how much money will be coming to localities from the state, creating a local budget is nearly impossible.

Time is certainly not a luxury municipal governments and agencies have on their side, and state lawmakers, thanks to petty political conflicts, only exacerbate this already monumental challenge by causing local governments to sweat it out until the last possible minute. The General Assembly, elected to conduct the people’s business, needs to pass a budget right away.