Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who broke many partisan ties during the regular General Assembly session, was powerless to weigh in since he lacks authority to vote on the budget.
The failure of the budget — a surprise since Republicans had seemed to peel off one Democrat during budget talks — could result in a partial government shutdown if a new spending plan is not worked out by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.
Already, the Virginia Department of Transportation has notified contractors that they should plan to halt work by May 1 because of the budget impasse, affecting hundreds of construction projects on bridges, roads and highways across the state.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell ( R) said the vote will have “disastrous effects on Virginia.”
“This is the most fiscally irresponsible act that I have seen during my career,” a visibly frustrated McDonnell said at a news conference. “It is completely irresponsible to hold up the budget of Virginia that serves 8 million people for one earmark, for one 11-mile railroad in one area of the state.”
Democrats said McDonnell and other Republicans were the irresponsible ones, failing to devote the money needed to solve the region’s traffic woes and ensure that the airport, a huge jobs generator, continues to thrive.
“I am voting no today because this budget does not include enough money for the most important construction project in the commonwealth,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “Rail to Dulles is a vital project. . . . The governor says he supports the Dulles rail project. It’s time for him to prove that.”
The Senate will take up the budget legislation again Wednesday, when it meets to vote on bills that McDonnell has vetoed or amended. There was no indication that the results will be any different, although Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) expressed hope that a Democrat will have a change of heart overnight — even as he accused them of trying to “embarrass and bring down the governor.”
The budget came off the rails during a special session called after Senate Democrats killed two spending plans during the regular session in a dispute over committee power and spending priorities.
The reversal provided yet another moment of drama in a year filled with it, from an opening day dominated by a fight for control of the chamber to pitched battles over abortion, religious freedom and
At the center of Tuesday’s hubbub was an 85-year-old man who stands not 5 feet tall and sat quietly drinking Pepsi in his leather swivel chair as Senate colleagues spoke passionately for and against the budget.