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xcurmudgeon

Budget Deficit Burns; McDonnell Fiddles

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 16:20:04 PM EST


It looks like even the Republicans in the General Assembly are pretty sick of Gov. Bob McDonnell's refusal so far to commit to amendments to cut the state budget by over $4 billion. In two weeks the budget committees in each house must have bills ready to adopt, but without executive leadership, the job is well nigh impossible.

Perhaps McDonnell is praying that four or five Republicans in the legislature will meet in a back room and devise ways to eliminate more than $4 billion from the budget and then take all the blame for the program cuts that will follow. That won't happen.

In an interview in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend, State Sen. Tom Norment (R-James City), the Senate Republican floor leader, said, "It's going to take divine intervention."

I don't know if he is asking God to write the state budget or asking God to prod the new governor to show at least a tiny bit of leadership. Both appear to be long shots.

Elaine in Roanoke :: Budget Deficit Burns; McDonnell Fiddles
Democrats publicly, and even a couple of Republicans privately, the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, are blaming McDonnell for what they say is a lack of leadership. McDonnell has chatted with legislators and offered some parameters ("no new taxes") but, unlike previous governors, he hasn't had the courage so far to send to the legislature budget amendments that reflect his priorities.

"There are thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. We need some direction," State Sen. R. Edd Houck (D-Spotsylvania) said in a floor speech last week, a speech extremely critical of the direction of budget talks.

Republicans are now having to contend with potential state and local job losses that will be huge, losses that were mitigated last year by the very Recovery Act they demonized.

Referring to the size of the cuts that have to be made, Del. Riley Ingram (R-Hopewell), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee said, "I've been here 18 years and I've never seen anything like this." He could also have been talking also about an incoming governor not doing the job he was elected to.

According to Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), any budget that passes the Senate won't include a tax increase, because of overwhelming opposition from McDonnell and the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

The state budget may include increasing some fees, but McDonnell is already getting heat from his far-right supporters who consider any revenue to any level of government evil on its face unless they personally benefit from the resulting governmental action.

How devoid of ideas is McDonnell? Well, late in January, the new governor actually emailed state workers asking for their suggestions in plugging the $4.2 billion hole in the budget.

The criticism directed at McDonnell is getting louder with each passing day. My favorite came last week from State Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico):

"There is a certain Standard of Leadership that is to be expected of a governor. Virginians expect their governor to conduct his business in the open, not in private meetings with legislators. The people of Virginia elected Governor McDonnell to make the tough decisions needed to manage the state and they deserve to know his priorities as we work to craft the state's budget."

"Every governor has put his mark on the budget, but Governor McDonnell has, thus far, shied away from this challenge. This is a time for leadership," McEachin declared. Yes!

Remember, the budget process we have in the Commonwealth is left over from the time when governors were the handmaidens of the old Harry Byrd machine.

The governor, limited to one four-year term, has the responsibility of submitting a biennial budget, even as he is leaving office. The incoming governor then is responsible for making any changes he sees as necessary. (Using the masculine pronoun exclusively simply describes state history to date.)

Since McDonnell & Co. have rejected the tax increase in Gov. Kaine's last budget, it is incumbent upon them to quickly suggest ways to cut an additional $2 billion, on top of Kaine's $2.2 billion cuts, from the next budget.

Quickly submitting budget amendments for any changes he wants in his predecessor's budget is  part of the job description of the governor of Virginia. McDonnell can't avoid putting his imprint on the draconian state cuts that are inevitable this year, no matter how much he tries to hide from his responsibilities.

Dropping back and punting the problem to someone else is not an option, Governor.

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Waiting for the Democrats
to save his bacon is what I think Bobbie Boy is up to, knowing as he does the Democrats' history of putting what's best for Virginia ahead of political points, so he thinks the Senate will come up with a draconian budget for him. Note that Saslaw said any budget coming out of the Senate will have no tax increases. I'd like to see the Senate tell the Governor he has authority to cut any and all programs as he chooses to fit whatever amount of block funding they authorize in the budget per department. The guv can be like Cinderella's step-sisters chopping off a toe here and a toe there to fit into the glass slipper. Make Bobbie McD make public cuts in his own name.

Anyway, is it not the Republican dominated House that originates spending bills? I trust the Senate will let the House sweat it out and not offer them any help. Maybe Bobbie Boy can pull a Schwatzenegger and pay the state's bills with I.O.U.'s, or have the Republican ladies' clubs hold a bake sale.  


I Agree
Yeah. Saslaw has been around forever. He plays the game. However, the House must also pass a bill. Then, the power brokers get in the back room and actually write the budget. Maybe McEachin and a few real Democrats will hold Mickey D's feet to the fire. Not Saslaw.

[ Parent ]
Remember
"Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose..."?

"Divine intervention" is just another word for "abdication of responsibility". It seems to be the preferred modus operandi for the lazy (both intellectually and physically). It certainly seemed to figure highly on Palin's priorities list last night (even though she had to use her palm-prompter to remember it). And it definitely sounds like the path that our own "Bobby McDee" has chosen to tread.

In  the early years of primary school, I used to hate my parents for having raised me as an atheist. Any time a test was coming up, all my little friends were on their knees, praying that the teacher would fall ill, while I was on my butt, swotting. That I would pass and they would fail didn't matter; it was never their fault they failed, it was "God's will". It wasn't until I was 12 or so, that I began to see that my parents might have had a point. Give Bobby McD another 5 yrs and he may come around, too :)


This is really a sleeper story right now..

The media in NoVa really isn't covering this story at all as best I can tell, and most people aren't even aware that this problem with the state budget even exists.

I agree with others though.  The Republicans need to be made to own this (and really there isn't much the Democrats could do even if they wanted to).  Any potential bill is going to be worked out between the House and the Governor.



Post Is Covering It
The Washington Post is covering it, but mainly on its political blog. Other than that, few stories have appeared.  The television "news" is hopeless. Unless it "bleeds," has "great video," or is critical of President Obama, it doesn't get covered.

Oh, yeah, TV also loves to cover political conflict, whether its the ridiculous "tea Pots" or "Sarah Palin."


[ Parent ]
Tea-related peripherals
Your reference to "tea pots" really tickled my (warped) sense of humour... "Tea bags" was bad enough; even if we avoid the vulgar slang meaning, it still has an ageist whiff to it, as anyone who's ever had "the old bag" directed at him/herself, knows. "Loose leaf" tea (as opposed to "bagged" tea), offered some interesting thought-avenues, too. And now come the "tea pots"... Will the tea cups have to have segregated seating from the tea pots at all the future tea party gatherings? A la Orthodox Jewish temples?

[ Parent ]
Funny!
I wish I could say I came up with "tea pots," but someone else should get the credit. I, too, simply thought it was spot-on!

[ Parent ]
Another article
Here's a recent article about the budget shortfall:
http://hamptonroads.com/2010/0...


[ Parent ]
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