RICHMOND, FEB. 20 (WEDNESDAY) -- A committee seeking a compromise between the Virginia Senate and the House on solving the state's budget crisis failed to meet a self-imposed midnight deadline.
Shortly after 12:30 this morning, the 75-year-old chairman of the Senate delegation, Howard P. Anderson (D-Halifax), announced that "we may as well adjourn" because of continuing differences.
The head of the House delegation, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert B. Ball Sr. (D-Henrico), then said, "We've given all we're going to give on this." But when the Senate delegation arose to leave, Ball pleaded, "It's not good to walk out. Sit down here like gentlemen and work it out."
But the older Senate conferees said they had had enough and departed.
Among the items still being debated early today as the deadline passed was how much aid to inner-city schools should be restored after cuts proposed by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. The budget debate was scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m.
Before giving up for the night, the only Northern Virginia legislator on the six-member panel, Sen. Clive L. DuVal 2d (D-McLean) was leading a Senate effort to retain a financing formula that would restore more money to the area's affluent suburban school systems.
"We're not going to finish tonight," DuVal said, but added that there were no irreconcilable differences between House and Senate members on the conference committee. He attributed the missed deadline to the extended floor sessions in both houses earlier in the day, which meant that the budget committee got a late start Tuesday night.
DuVal predicted that Wilder's $200 million rainy-day fund would be preserved, despite moves by the Senate to cut it in half.
The conferees began a rare public session at 9:54 p.m. Tuesday, but recessed after 15 minutes of sometimes acrimonious debate over two budget items.
After a 75-minute recess, during which aides produced new figures on the financial effect of several school funding formulas, members resumed their public debate.
The conference committee is trying to resolve differences between the plans of the House and the Senate for dealing with Virginia's $2.2 billion revenue shortfall. Tuesday night, the committee debated cuts of $4.7 million in tuition grants to Virginia students at the state's private colleges and $4.4 million in cuts in Medicaid nursing home benefits.
Committee members made a preliminary agreement to restore about $1 million of the tuition grants while reducing the Medicaid cuts by a similar amount.
Earlier Tuesday, several lawmakers predicted that the hospitalization of a key player in the budget negotiations would improve Wilder's chances of holding onto his $200 million reserve fund.
Legislators were surprised when Senate Majority Leader Hunter B. Andrews (D-Hampton), the senior Senate member of the committee, was sidelined with chest pains Monday.
They noted that Andrews was the leading proponent of cutting Wilder's reserve fund to $100 million.
The absence of Andrews on the committee will "make it easier to maintain" the governor's reserve fund, said Sen. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (D-Franklin), one of Wilder's staunchest allies in the Senate.
Sen. Emilie F. Miller (D-Fairfax) said she believes Wilder "would prevail" in the conference committee anyway, "but that's more so now" that Andrews will be absent.
Andrews, who had persuaded senators to cut the reserve fund in their version of the budget, was replaced on the conference committee by Sen. Dudley J. "Buzz" Emick Jr. (D-Botetourt), because he is next in seniority on the Finance Committee.
Emick is one of the few legislators who has favored increasing taxes as a way of meeting the record shortfall.
Emick proposed a half-cent increase in the sales tax as an alternative to the extensive budget cuts backed by Wilder, but his idea got virtually no support in this election year.
Miller said Emick told fellow senators that he would try to put his own agenda aside on the committee and "try to do what Hunter wanted."
Generally, the House version of the budget is closer to Wilder's plan than the Senate's version.
Wilder accused Andrews last week of stripping $1 million in medical care for the poor from the budget while finding $140,000 to equip the reproduction of a historic ship that will be based in Andrews's home district as a tourist attraction.
Also to be resolved by the conference committee are the size of cuts in school aid, the length of furloughs of the state's 100,000 employees, anti-drug initiatives, consolidation of several small agencies and the diversion of pension funds for operating expenses.
The conferees inherited another problem Tuesday when Del. Leslie L. Byrne (D-Fairfax) exacted revenge on Andrews for sidetracking her House-passed resolution calling on Congress to put abortion rights in the U.S. Constitution.
Byrne sacrificed one of her own bills to kill a Senate-passed effort, which had been added to it, that would have accelerated sales tax collections, producing a one-time windfall. The action left the Senate version of the budget $48 million short of being balanced.
The bill that Byrne killed would have provided exemptions to the sales tax, which she said would be restored as part of another bill.
Emick's appointment to the conference committee thrust the senator, a self-styled outsider who often is a lone critic on budget matters, into the unaccustomed role of ultimate insider. Not only did Emick take Andrews's place on the conference committee, but he was named to stand in for Andrews as acting majority leader of the Senate.
The 69-year-old Andrews admitted himself to a hospital at the Medical College of Virginia on Monday afternoon, after walking across the street from the General Assembly Building, complaining of "tightness in his chest," according to a hospital statement.
His doctor, George W. Vetrovec, said that he found "nothing out of the ordinary" in a cardiac catheterization of Andrews Tuesday morning and that Andrews would be released today.
Andrews, the senior member of the Senate, is the second of three Senate representatives on the conference committee to be replaced because of illness. Stanley C. Walker (D-Norfolk), the Senate's president pro tempore, who is recuperating from heart surgery, earlier was replaced by DuVal.