“We remain hopeful that we can find a solution to the funding dilemma on the Dulles Toll Road and provide toll relief to the families who will face high, skyrocketing tolls without additional assistance from the commonwealth,’’ House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mark D. Sickles (Fairfax) said.
The budget breakthrough came on the day the General Assembly weighed McDonnell’s changes to 130 bills and seven vetoes unrelated to the budget.
Legislators rejected McDonnell’s recommendations to weaken a contentious voter ID bill, scrapping provisions the governor had added to allow local elections officials to compare signatures if voters did not have proper identification. But they agreed to allow localities to spread the cost of new pension regulations over years.
But most of the attention Wednesday focused on the state budget, which pays for everything from prisons to road maintenance and colleges.
“It was probably not one of the masterpieces that we’ve painted in the legislative process, but ultimately it came out as a recognizable portrait,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City).
The spending plan came just in time. School budgets must be adopted May 1 and county budgets by June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year.
On Tuesday, as he was weighing how to vote, Colgan also had asked McDonnell for a letter stating his support in principle to the Dulles rail project. McDonnell produced a letter, one that satisfied Colgan. But Colgan’s Democratic colleagues persuaded him to vote against the budget anyway because they thought the governor’s tone in the letter was “a bit testy,” Colgan said.
McDonnell sent another letter to Colgan on Wednesday that simply confirmed support for the Dulles rail project, but did not promise additional money. That was enough for Colgan.
Senate Republicans needed at least one Democratic vote in the evenly divided chamber to approve the budget. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) can break tie votes, but not when it deals with the budget.
Legislators tried, but failed, to override several vetoes, including one that would have increased penalties for Virginia residents who failed to register their cars in the state and another that would have allowed those who live within homeowner associations to qualify for federal tax credits by installing solar panels.
They agreed to technical amendments that would gives tax credits to those who donate private- and parochial-school tuition to students, which Democrats said would undermine public education. Lawmakers also voted to tweak the governor’s transportation plan, but added no new funding.