Virginia Senate approves state budget plan

The Virginia Senate on Monday evening passed a state budget that includes tens of millions of additional dollars for public schools, health care and transportation, including $300 million for the Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport.

But the evenly divided chamber rejected an attempt by Democrats to force the state to pay $1.5 million each year for a Republican-supported law that requires women to undergo ultrasounds before abortions.

“This has nothing to do with abortion,’’ Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said. “We are dealing with a mandate.”

Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) said: “This is about the sanctity of human life.’’

The amendment died 19-20 with Sen. Charles Colgan (D-Prince William) voting with Republicans; Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Winchester) was absent. A similar proposal failed in the regular session.

The Senate’s 35-4 vote on the budget proposal paves the way for the General Assembly, in the second week of a special session, to pass the two-year, $85 billion spending plan. Two Democrats joined two Republicans to reject the spending plan.

“After a long, arduous partisan process, I’m relieved we passed a budget with a bipartisan vote,’’ Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) said.

The House of Delegates will return to the state Capitol Tuesday.

A dozen negotiators appointed by legislative leaders to hammer out a budget compromise during the special session — Republicans
and Democrats, delegates and senators — will now begin to hash out an agreement between the two chambers. All 140 legislators
will vote on the budget after the negotiating team reaches a deal.

“We’re pleased we got Virginians a budget that restores millions of dollars to support school children, ensures families won’t be hit with budget-busting tolls, repairs the safety net for the most vulnerable Virginians, and gets some relief for homeowners hurt by the foreclosure crisis,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico).

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