(See a rundown of bills passed during the Virginia General Assembly session and vote for which will
have the biggest impact.)
McDonnell (R) summoned a handful of legislators to his office late Saturday afternoon, including House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Finance Chairman Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico). The group worked out a deal on pensions — a hybrid retirement plan for new state employees, local employees and teachers. But the governor’s plan to divert $110 million in core services to pay for transportation initiatives was derailed when on Saturday evening legislators failed to agree on exactly where the money would come from.
“In every legislative session, there are issues that need to be negotiated, and major issues that don’t get negotiated until the last day,” Sen. Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover) said.
Democrats, however, had a different take on the last-minute negotiations. “If you take a look at what [McDonnell] wants to accomplish, it’s kind of in shambles,” House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said. “We’ve had two months to work on it. . . . This is no way to govern.”
McDonnell told reporters late Saturday that he was grateful to lawmakers for their work, including reforms to the pension system, but he said he was “disappointed” a budget had not been passed.
“I’ll be reminding them about what happens if a budget does not get done very soon,” he said of the upcoming special session. “It’s very serious business for local governments, school boards, for police, for firefighters, for college boards that have to set tuition soon and a host of others that depend on certainty that we don’t have right now.”
McDonnell opened the session 60 days ago hoping his state — and perhaps his vice presidential prospects — would shine for sound budgeting, bipartisan harmony and everything else that nearby Washington does not represent.
The period will be known instead for the GOP’s takeover of Richmond, Democrats’ refusal to accept it, and a string of hot-button bills that brought national ridicule, large protests and some uncommonly frank anatomical references to what is quaintly called Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol.
The season’s winners and losers aren’t likely to be settled upon soon — especially if the lack of a budget leads to a partial government shutdown. The session’s reverberations could be felt in McDonnell’s national political future, the presidential contest and a U.S. Senate race with the potential to tip control of the chamber.