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Howell Is The Man

By Greg L | 24 February 2007 | Virginia Politics | 11 Comments

At today’s closing of the General Assembly session, one man stood out as the kingpin of the Virginia legislature in a way never seen before in modern history: House Speaker William Howell. Not only did he shepard HB 3202 through several near-death experiences over the past few weeks, but in the last day of the session when it was do-or-die for transportation reform he managed to cement the House and Senate majorities together, and hold them together to the end. It was a classic Senate vs. House battle, but it turned into a Republican vs. Democrat battle.

I recall Bill Bolling describing his experience in the Senate, when as a junior senator he gave an impassioned speech to the Republican caucus urging them to take the fight to the Democrats, and was pulled aside by a senior senator and told “you know Bill, it’s not the Democrats who are the enemy — it’s the House of Delegates.” Perhaps in other legislative bodies the battles are amongst members of competing parties. In Virginia, it has been a battle between the two legislative bodies for as long as anyone can remember. Today something different happened.

When Chichester stood up in the Senate today and threw everything he could into his battle to stop HB 3202, it was certainly a tried-and-true tactic which had worked consistently in the past. Today the landscape has entirely changed, and Chichester failed at every turn to stop a bill that didn’t conform to his unique views on raising taxes. Speaker Howell ruled the General Assembly today, while Chichester was blindsided and ineffective. Through some deft parlimentary maneuvers, considerable arm twisting, and remarkable leadership there is now one Republican caucus in Richmond, and Speaker Howell is in charge.

And that is a Very Good Thing.

Statement of House Speaker William J. Howell
– Regarding the Successful Conclusion of Budget Negotiations on House Bill 1650 –

RICHMOND, VA – Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) today issued the following statement regarding the Report of the Committee of Conference for House Bill 1650, amendments to the current 2006-2008 Biennial Budget:

“The news that budget negotiators on behalf of the House and Senate have successfully reached an agreement on House Bill 1650 is both exciting and encouraging.  The completion of these talks before the scheduled adjournment of this session today is a credit to all of the conferees.

“The package of budget amendments approved by the conferees provides substantial funding for the Commonwealth’s core services like education, public safety, health care and the environment.  By investing an additional $26 million toward cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, we are now well past the halfway mark of the commitment made by House Republicans just two years ago to dedicate $500 million in ten years.  We substantially increased the number of MR and DDR waivers – more than double the number proposed by the Governor – which will help more disable Virginians and their families receive community based services.  The package provides funding for a 4% pay raise for state employees, sheriffs’ deputies, and college faculty, as well as the state share of a 3% increase for public school teachers.  And, of critical importance to Virginia’s families, we provided incentive funding to make the cost of an education at our state-supported colleges and universities more affordable.

“Reaching consensus on amendments to the budget is also very encouraging news for those of us who want to see a comprehensive transportation plan enacted this session.  With the budget agreement reached, there are no remaining legislative impediments to approving House Bill 3202, the Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform Act of 2007.

“Now, the decision making process for lawmakers can be characterized by one simple question:  Do you want a transportation plan that can pass to be approved this session?

“Similarly, the question for the Governor is equally clear:  Do you want to show leadership or partisanship?

“Later today, the Conference Report on House Bill 3202, a comprehensive transportation plan crafted by legislators from both parties and in both bodies, will provide the last realistic opportunity for delegates and senators to improve Virginia’s network of roads, railways, and public transit.  For the benefit of commuters frustrated with traffic congestion and highway gridlock, it needs to be approved before this session adjourns, and sent to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

“Chairman Callahan and his team have done another outstanding job of obtaining an agreement related to the budget that will improve the quality of life of all Virginians.  All of the conferees for the House and Senate deserve the thanks of their colleagues, and I, personally, congratulate them on their success.”

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  1. James Atticus Bowden said on 24 Feb 2007 at 10:09 pm:
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    You support this Transportation Plan? It’s a compromise of Republican principles - and in Hampton Roads it doesn’t actually work to reduce congestion.

  2. Greg L said on 24 Feb 2007 at 10:20 pm:
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    There’s more in it that I do like than I don’t. One of the most problematic components for me is regional authorities part, which is voluntary on a per-county basis. If a couple of liberal localities want to raise their own taxes and be able to keep all that revenue in that area, more power to them. Prince William County already is building it’s own roads through it’s own plan, doesn’t need to participate, and almost certainly will not participate.

    That makes this somewhat troublesome component largely moot in my area.

    If we are successful in burning down the senate, we only have to live with some of these more problematic issues for a year, and we can go back and fix them in ‘08. Let’s focus on that, and have the ability to improve this compromise next year.

  3. Chris said on 24 Feb 2007 at 10:49 pm:
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    Greg, your exactly right. This, in my opinion, is nothing more than a bridge to 2008. This was a measure to save our majority, and it could work. This will allow our NOVA delegates and senators to go back how and say, “See, we can do it and we can do more and better if we are better in control and we can knock out these obstructionist Democrats.”

    This is a good measure for what its meant to be. Now we can get out and elect more Republicans so we can get the best solution.

  4. NoVA Scout said on 24 Feb 2007 at 11:06 pm:
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    As frequently happens, JAB and I end up at the same place via slightly different pathways. This bill is a mess. A real triumph for the borrow-and-spend types. It’s virtually impossible to discern from this type of legislation where Republican principles of governance lie. It’s the same cowardice the Republican members showed in teeing up the referendum in 2002. Oh well, we can always hope the voters won’t notice. It will be interesting to see how Kaine handles this now. I’m sort of hoping he stubs his toe as badly in the veto process as the Republicans did in pushing this through.

  5. James Atticus Bowden said on 24 Feb 2007 at 11:28 pm:
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    Roger dodger NoVa. This is a Transportation abortion.

    Sorry, Greg and Chris, but a few facts about the Hampton Roads part escapes you.

    1. The bill does NOT reduce congestion. Get it? Not over 20 years? Not for one year? It INCREASES congested miles in Hampton Roads.

    2. It raises taxes when revenue is increasing.

    3. The unelected, unaccountable, unseparated powers of a Regional Government - which will be a Democrat dominated government hereabouts - was rejected TWICE by the voters. What part of ‘NO’ confuses Republicans in the GA?

    Remember this is what the Whigs said. This is the best measure we can get now on slavery. This is a good compromise. We can fix it later. Yada yada yada.

    Compromising principles is important - assuming one actually knows what principles to not compromise - or what a principle is.

  6. Spank That Donkey said on 25 Feb 2007 at 12:14 am:
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    I’m thinking big Govt. ate the surplus, plain and simple… With all the beating, banging, gnashing of teeth to get the bi-annual budget done last year… and you have a surplus one year into that budget, and you supposedly have a crisis… then one time the vast majority of that surplus into transportation….

    and come back next year, and see where your revenues are.

    No, this is all political, since $329 million was set aside for trans in the initial budget and not appropriated to VDOT to get their priority projects moving…

    btw, what is the amount of this years suplus going to Trans? Haven’t seen it anywhere? Did we hold onto the $250M figure, the Potts $66M?

  7. Greg L said on 25 Feb 2007 at 12:16 am:
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    Interesting points. Here are a few thoughts:

    The bill requires that VDOT choose projects based on the degree of congestion reduction and safety improvements they will achieve. Currently projects are parceled out on the basis of political clout, it would appear, which builds lots of roads to places where people don’t want to drive and ignores roads people can’t help but get stuck in gridlock upon. I don’t see how these reforms are going to make things worse.

    This raises taxes far less than the Governor’s proposal or any realistic alternative. I’m not thrilled either, but this is the best choice we had this session. We can improve this in ‘08 if we have a better senate, and that’s the real fight for us.

  8. Spank That Donkey said on 25 Feb 2007 at 1:23 am:
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    Should’ve known just look in the Wash Times:

    “Gone is the direct diversion of $250 million annually from the state’s general fund, which pays for such central state obligations as public safety, schools, support for higher education and care for the elderly, indigent and disabled.
    However, the bonds, which would be issued in increments of no more than $300 million a year, would be paid with revenue from the state tax paid by people who record wills, land deeds and lawsuits in courts. The debt service drain would peak at $184 million a year. ”

    I watched the Utube on RK of our great ‘leader’ Potts decry that there was no compromise by the House… i.e. that the House compromised on raising taxes…

    then he goes on to say that the fee’s are all taxes (increases). Potts masters the art of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, and maybe even other orifices…. To be rid of him, is only the beginning…..

    Who ate the Surplus? The Senate ate the Surplus, and got a little more to boot….. It must be fun to spend other peoples $$$

  9. Spank That Donkey said on 25 Feb 2007 at 1:33 am:
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    to be clearer, Potts said the house did not raise taxes enough, you know for his liking.. and he even proposed using $66M originally from the surplus, and even that is gone in this compromise?

    The only good thing here is that LG Bolling saved us from another round of massive tax increase…by stopping Potts a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile in the last Warner budget $1.5 Billion $ tax increase, you know the one the Senate crammed down our throats to save the bond rating, and of course fund transportation….

    This is the same crap that happened to George H. Bush, when he broke the ‘no new taxes pledge’, he cut a deal that the new taxes would all go to reduce the/then budget deficit… (ooooh, that worked)

    Another big travesty…. 1/3rd of the 2% tax on VA auto insurance premiums (state wide) goes to transportation… where does the other 2/3rds go? The general fund for use in….

  10. anon said on 25 Feb 2007 at 11:56 am:
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    Nova Scout-
    In my opinion, the difference between the “borrow and spend” in the transportation bill and the “borrow and spenders” in Congress is that it makes sometimes makes sense to borrow to pay for capital projects (like roads). Local governments do it all the time. As long as the government pays its bills on time and makes sure that debt service is a small component of the overall budget from year to year, it makes sense. The problem in Congress is that some “conservatives” have been borrowing to pay for operating expenses of various government programs (i.e. homeland security, war spending etc.). When Kaine and the Dems talk about a “continued revenue stream for transportation,” it simply echos their liberal philosophy–namely, that government needs to be fed continuously. I would hope that we might actually be able to solve the transportation problems (or at least improve transportation) through the bonds, and then be smarter as we move ahead with respect to land use etc. A lot of the problems we have today are because yesterday’s leaders didn’t have a long term vision for the future. Thus, we have to fix the mess they created and then make sure we do better in the future. Time will tell if we can get that done.

  11. NoVA Scout said on 25 Feb 2007 at 11:32 pm:
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    Anon: If I thought more than one or two of these cats in Richmond had even tried to evaluate the comparative public finance benefits/impacts of debt financing over more direct taxation and fees, your point would resonate a bit more with me. But this is a smoke screen to hide levies on the citizens under names that don’t require mass hypocrisy outings on tax policy. Public debt has its place. But it should be undetaken for the right reasons. Here we have a lot of guys running for cover, caught between voter outrage in certain populous areas, and cartoon “no tax” philosophies adopted without serious reflection. The negative, stultifying effects of debt are similar to the dead hand of taxes, at least when debt service and principal are repaid with tax revenues, as is contemplated in this proposal. This legislation reflects ignorance, incompetence and cowardice in our own party. The debt approach here was embraced to have something to take home to constituents while at that same time not having to utter the dreaded word that begins with “t” but dare not speak its name. That’s no way to form public policy for Virginians.

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