The budget standoff in Richmond threatens to hurt counties across the state, with officials left to guess at how much state aid they’ll receive as they put together spending plans of their own, the Virginia Association
of Counties warned Tuesday.
“Just give me a budget,” said William Robertson of the Prince George County Board of Supervisors, speaking at a Capitol Square news conference, where he and other members of association urged the Virginia Senate to move beyond the impasse and adopt a state budget.
Across the state, county governments face deadlines to adopt school and county budgets by May 1 and June 30, respectively. Before that, they are required to twice advertise tax rates and hold public hearings. They will have to do all that based on guesswork if the state Senate does not finalize a budget soon, association members said.
“A stalemate doesn’t move anyone forward,” said Bill Kyger, chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors and a past president of VACO, which represents all 95 Virginia counties.
Senate Democrats have voted down two budget plans and are threatening to scuttle a third in a bid for more power in the chamber. They are pushing to put more Democrats on committees that Republicans stacked in the GOP’s favor at the start of session.
The Senate is evenly split, but Republicans claimed control of the upper chamber because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) has the power to break tie votes. Bolling lacks authority to vote on the budget, so Democrats have sought to use their power to hold up the budget to renew their call for power sharing.
Officials with the association took pains to say they were neutral in the budget battle. They simply want it resolved, they said, and do not care how.
Senate Democrats nevertheless issued a statement in response, justifying their budget-killing strategy and suggesting that local governments will not be unduly burdened by it.
“From 2001 to 2008, the General Assembly missed its scheduled budget deadline five out of seven times,” it said. “Recent history proves that local governments have been largely unaffected by previous budget disagreements.”