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Virginia Politics
Posted at 02:40 PM ET, 03/21/2012

Virginia lawmakers begin working on budget compromise

They’re back.

The Virginia General Assembly returned to Richmond Wednesday to strike a deal for a two-year, $85 billion state budget.

A dozen negotiators — Republicans and Democrats, delegates and senators — began meeting Wednesday to draft a spending plan that can pass both chambers.


State Sen. Charles Colgan (D-Prince William) on the floor of the Senate at the Capitol in Richmond, last month. (Steve Helber - AP)
Senate conferees already met Tuesday and Wednesday — including over lunch at nearby restaurant — to discuss about a dozen requests from Democrats.

“We’ve got a few things to iron out yet,” Sen. Charles Colgan (D-Prince William) said.

Senate Democrats have voted down two budgets and threatened to scuttle a third after Republicans failed to give them more power on committees and increase spending in certain areas.

November's elections left the Senate equally divided between the parties, but Republicans took control because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) has the power to break some tie votes. He cannot, however, vote on the budget.

Failure to pass a budget by the start of the fiscal year could result in a partial government shutdown for the first time in Virginia history.

In past years, the House and Senate each passed a budget and worked out differences. This times, internal Senate issues must be resolved first. The Senate Finance Committee will meet Thursday.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax).
Sen. Richard L. "Dick" Saslaw (D-Fairfax). (Rachael Spiegel)
Earlier in the day, a coalition of progressive groups from across Virginia urged legislators to restore potential cuts to education and health care and rescind tax breaks for corporations.

“Budgets aren’t just numbers on paper,'' Susan Edwards, a home health care provider, said at a Capitol Square news conference. “They are a roadmap for the choices that we make as a community and this one is getting it all wrong.”

 The groups are: Alliance for Progressive Values, The Martin L. King Jr. Living History & Public Policy Center, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, ProgressVA, Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants, Virginia Organizing, Virginia New Majority, and Voice of Vietnamese Americans. 

By and  |  02:40 PM ET, 03/21/2012

 
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