The Virginia Senate and House passed their respective versions of an $18.5 billion, two-year budget today, leaving conferees to sort out differences over pay raises for state employes, including legislators, and how much should be spent on human services in the face of impending federal spending cuts.
The Senate proposal "combines virtues that all Virginians honor -- reliance on conservative financial principles and a willingness to respond to new challenges," said Senate Finance Chairman Edward E. Willey (D-Richmond).
Willey, who will head the three-member Senate team that will do battle with House conferees led by Del. Dorothy S. McDiarmid (D-Fairfax), said federal cuts will affect health, welfare, mental health and social services.
"We must be in a position to absorb these cuts, rather than expanding services," said Willey. His comment appeared to be a jab at the House proposal, which includes money to study teen-age pregnancy and increases welfare benefits, including expansion of a program for the working poor.
Both chambers voted down proposals, most of them offered by Republicans, to change the spending plans approved by their money committees.
In the House, Republican Del. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. of Augusta sought unsuccessfully to trim about $200,000 a year from funds for the office of Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, which Hanger said Wilder would use "to run for governor."
Hanger won support from Democratic Del. Theodore V. Morrison Jr. of Newport News, who said it was "ridiculous" to spend $600,000 "for what is really a ceremonial office . . . [and] what may well be a political campaign."
Morrison said that under Virginia law, the part-time lieutenant governor has only two functions, to preside over the Senate when it is in session and "he's got to stay alive . . . that's his duty," in the event the governor is incapacitated.
The motion was defeated on what sounded like a close voice vote. House Speaker A.L. Philpott (D-Henry) ignored a GOP effort to force a vote by a show of hands.
In the Senate, Willey said he was "compelled" to depart from his prepared remarks to respond to news accounts of "how secretive we've been, and how open and above board the House has been" in preparing the budget.
McDiarmid, serving her first term as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, criticized the secrecy of the Senate budget process in a floor speech Monday, and pledged that the upcoming meetings of conferees would be open.
"I don't understand why it's so evil" to meet in private, Willey said. He said boards of banks and newspapers "meet behind closed doors . . . that's what you have to do to run a good railroad. They just want to tell us how to run it."
Willey said "nothing dishonest or anything like that goes on" in the meetings of the so-called Secret Seven, a group of senior members of his Finance Committee who meet privately to make all significant budget decisions.
He said the "bad press" might be justified, but added that "we're not the only culprits around here." He said the last time the budget conferees met in open session, "one half hour after we started, it was the House members who moved to go into executive session."