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Virginia Senate: Is Budget Paralysis A Better Option?

By Greg L | 13 February 2010 | 29th VA Senate, Virginia Senate | 11 Comments

The central political struggle that grips this year’s session of the General Assembly is quite understandably the budget.  With revenues down and plenty of good causes deserving of taxpayer dollars, Senate Democrats in particular have been taking potshots at the Governor and the Republican majority in the House for rejecting the idea of raising taxes on Virginians in this economy.  The challenge with this approach is that a Senate-crafted budget which includes tax hikes not only has about zero chance of passing the House (a House bill on then-Governor Kaine’s proposal to raise taxes failed to garner a single vote, even from House Democrats) but likely would have difficulty in emerging from the Senate as well.  So what are Senate Democrats, and the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Colgan going to do?

Colgan could once again cobble together a budget that depends on a massive hike in taxes and fees, but that’s not going to work.  He could try to out-do the Republican-led House in promoting fiscal restraint through budget cuts, but tax hike addicted nutjobs in the Senate like Donald McEachin would certainly revolt.  This conundrum is a big reason why there’s no Senate budget seemingly making it’s way through the Senate Finance Committee.  Could, for the first time since the 1960’s, the Senate finally follow the previously longstanding tradition of having all revenue bills originate in the lower house of government by doing nothing to propose a competing budget bill?

Before then, just like the requirement in the United States Constitution regarding the authorities of Congress, the Senate of Virginia did not draft a budget bill but received it from the House of Delegates.  They’d amend it of course, but the House of Delegates would set the framework for the budget and unless the Senate was determined to restructure the bill, they’d pretty much follow the outline of the House of Delegates.  Instead of having two separate and competing pieces of legislation that had nothing much to do with each other that ultimately need to be merged, which is what we’ve been dealing with for decades in Virginia, we would have one discussion.  One simpler process.  One far more sane process.  There’s a lot of important reasons why revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives at the federal level, and the circus that happens every two years in Virginia is a good demonstration of those.

There actually could be some political advantage for Colgan and the Democrats in doing this.  The members of the Senate would be pretty much absolved of responsibility for spending and service cuts that inevitably will be made, and be able to point at the Republican-controlled House for two years while crying about cuts in education spending that were essentially unavoidable.  While it might not be what many consider responsible governing, there is some credible political ammunition to be had in this that would be hard for Democrats to forgo.  Senate Democrats would give up some initiative here, but they’d get to hang all the tough decisions on the House Republican leadership.

Perhaps the current paralysis in the Senate Finance Committee can yield a positive result this session.  It at least would let Chuck Colgan evade any charges of being ineffective at getting a Senate budget bill out this year.  He could claim it was his intent all along to have one House-drafted budget bill to throw rocks at, and not provide a target for Republicans to do the same with.  Democrats might gain some political advantage here, but the idea of having both houses draft a budget bill and battle over which one will win is little more than a ridiculous demonstration in the extreme of how brilliant the United States Constitution really is.

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  1. Big Dog said on 13 Feb 2010 at 2:11 pm:
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    Greg, a good analysis of the situation in Richmond.

  2. VA_Magoo said on 14 Feb 2010 at 12:23 pm:
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    Here’s a novel thought, how about reducing the budget by reducing the number of government employees? Why should us in the private sector be the only ones loosing our jobs? Lets face facts, it is time to reduce spending! In my household we reduce our spending when the money gets tight, we dont borrow more to continue to spend at the same rate as when the income is higher. The government at all levels, state and national must learn to reduce costs by reducing spending!

  3. Freedom said on 14 Feb 2010 at 12:58 pm:
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    Bingo, Magoo!!! You running for Govt office? :)

  4. Kevin C said on 15 Feb 2010 at 8:00 am:
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    VA_Magoo said on 14 Feb 2010 at 12:23 pm: “…how about reducing the budget by reducing the number of government employees?”

    Anyone who thinks that the 4 BILLION dollar budget deficit is LABOR related is WAY off base!!!

    It’s (probably) a pretty safe bet that you could LAY OFF every single government employee in the commonwealth INCLUDING the Governor and STILL not cover the 4 BILLION dollar deficit!!!

    It would be interesting to know what the (lump sum) PAYROLL for the commonwealth is and exactly how many employees it covers?

    I just tried to Google it but got stuck in the CIRCLE JERK “they” use when they don’t want to you to know anything.

    There’d be an interesting challenge.

    Who can come up with the number of state employees and total payroll?

    As for me, I’d start with cutting ALL services to illegal aliens AND their families!!!!

    That would kill two birds with one stone:

    1) Cut (part of) the deficit!

    2) Send a message that there will be NO taxpayer assistance for people who DO NOT pay taxes in Virginia, namely: ILLEGALS!!!

  5. Howard the Duck said on 15 Feb 2010 at 12:55 pm:
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    Correct. A good place to start is throw out all the illegal aliens in Virginia and save on social services, crime, schools. Heck, even California is starting to get it.

    Of course the survey I got in the mail from my Virginia “Democratic” Senator did not mention once this option of dealing with the revenue shortfall.

  6. Kevin C said on 15 Feb 2010 at 2:40 pm:
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    The more I look at my own post, the more I think, HOW FREAKIN’ RIDICULOUS is it for TAX PAYERS to pay for assistance to people who DON’T PAY TAXES ?????

    Howard the Duck said on 15 Feb 2010 at 12:55 pm: “…the survey I got in the mail from my Virginia “Democratic” Senator did not mention once this option of dealing with the revenue shortfall.”

    Then it’s time to campaign as AGGRESSIVELY as you can AGAINST him!!!

    Don’t wait till election time!!!

    START NOW!!!!!

  7. Howard the Duck said on 16 Feb 2010 at 11:42 am:
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    Let’s hire a whole heap of Virginia State Troopers and we can make a ton of money on I-95, hitting up those out of state lunatics that weave in and out of heavy traffic at high speeds. I sure would feel a lot safer with the troopers out there on an early Sunday morning.

    Time was when you did not dream of speeding on 95, in Virginia. That was back in the days of the Richmond Petersburg Toll Road.

  8. PWCtaxpayer said on 16 Feb 2010 at 1:41 pm:
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    Before this goes too far down the illegals highway, I thought it might be useful to suggest a few things - because this is really a short -term problem that will turn back around as the economy and the housing industry improves. First, no pay raises for the Governor or any legislator until employees get the same increase. The BOCS insulted every PWC employee this year. Second, institut a ramped up Pay-Go budget requiremernt much as the Feds have just reinstituted (all increases must be off-set with a 1.3 multiplier decrease). Third, make every budget proposal estimate the return on investment to the State generated by the expenditure of public funds. If public funding does not does not make economic sense, find another approach that does. And fifth, get out of the commercial support services business - from motor pools to highway maintenace, from IT support to the DMV turnstiles to - yes - why does the State continue to monopoloze access to my booze addictions. Big programs are not going to be cut and the Illegasl are only one source of inappropriate social funding. We need more tourism and we need partnerships, with private and non-profit corporations to make tourisn a real part of our economy.

  9. local gop said on 16 Feb 2010 at 9:06 pm:
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    or raise the tobacco tax….

  10. PWCtaxpayer said on 17 Feb 2010 at 8:13 am:
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    local gop said: or raise the tobacco tax….

    Raising taxes again and again and again. Not sure which I hate more - regressive taxes like the tobacco, food or other ’sin” taxes or the liberal democratic progressive taxs that hit the “rich” and destroy investment and entreprenurialism — Jobs. We need some new approaches that generate new sources of discretionary spending based taxes revenues combined with some good old fashioned competitive contracting and cost based management.

  11. Kevin C said on 17 Feb 2010 at 8:45 pm:
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    PWCtaxpayer said on 17 Feb 2010 at 8:13 am: “We need some new approaches that generate new sources of discretionary spending based taxes revenues…”

    ONE new approach would be a SURCHARGE on any money wired outside the United States !!!

    Have you ever gotten in line behind a “bunch” on a Friday night sending money “home?”

    Twenty Percent would be a good starting place !!!

    FORCE the ILLEGALS to pay taxes, ONE way or ANOTHER !!!!

    Another good place would be NO financial help of ANY kind to anyone WITHOUT a Social Security Card !!!!

    The FIRST form of identification required at the local welfare office SHOULD be a Social Security Card !!!!!

    I’m SICK and TIRED of seeing people who DO NOT pay taxes sucking TAXPAYER DOLLARS out of the SYSTEM !!!!!

    Time to SHUT ‘em DOWN and KICK ‘em OUT !!!!

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