Executive Bulletin March 5, 2012Budget stalemate, Metrorail money, GOP primary, and Congressional redistricting update
“Never has a meltdown come so early, been as starkly partisan, or shown so little hope for resolution.”
-- The Associated Press on Virginia’s current budget standoff
BUDGET STALEMATE COULD FORCE ASSEMBLY OVER-TIME: Senate Democrats remain united in their stand against the budget, defeating spending blueprints put forth by both chambers and continuing a bitter political power struggle. The House-approved budget plan, the Senate budget and the “caboose” budget to complete appropriations for the current fiscal year all have been defeated in the Senate.
Budget approval requires a majority of the 40 Senators elected. Democrats, with 20 votes, have prevented the upper chamber from meeting the threshold. The House reintroduced its version of the spending bill late last week but it seems unlikely to meet with success when it reaches the Senate again today.
The increasingly bitter dispute dates to January when Democrats sought power sharing in the evenly divided Senate. Republicans said no, and used the tie-breaking vote of GOP Lt Gov. Bolling to achieve operational control of the chamber. Bolling since has broken 17 tie votes in the GOP’s favor but the state Constitution precludes his vote on the budget.
Senior leaders from both parties acknowledge that the legislature is likely to adjourn this week without a budget, making a special session later this year necessary to resolve differences.
This would mark the fourth time in a decade that lawmakers have failed to enact a budget in the regular session. During the fight on car tax repeal in 2001, then Gov. Jim Gilmore used the caboose budget to keep state operations going. In 2004 and 2006, prolonged budget disputes were eventually settled in special sessions. The state’s fiscal year ends June 30. In 2006, the budget was not adopted until June 28.
POLICY DIFFERNCES ALSO MUST BE RESOLVED: Although politics grabs a lot of attention, important policy differences also remain to be resolved between competing versions of spending plans offered by the House and Senate. Areas of disagreement include money for transportation, education, health care, local governments and pension reform.
On transportation, the House version deletes three major fee increases proposed by Governor McDonnell and diverts $95 million in sales tax revenue from the state's general fund to transportation, fulfilling a McDonnell administration objective. The Senate did not include the sales tax shift in its plan. It prefers indexing Virginia's 17.5-cent gas tax to inflation in the cost of road construction materials. That approach would bring in an estimated $124 million in new revenue by 2018.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of House & Senate budgets prepared by the House Appropriations Committee.
METRORAIL MONEY: A question of jurisdiction surrounded efforts to limit the use of union-only labor on the Dulles Metrorail project in NOVA. To protect Virginia’s Right to Work law, legislation passed this session would withhold $150 million in state funding to extend rail to Dulles - unless the project welcomes non-union contractors. But the $6 billion extension of Metro is a multi-jurisdictional project governed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority – which says it will give preference to organized labor.
Responding to a request from Sen. Dick Black, a strong supporter of Right to Work, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli seemed to indicate that the Virginia law could not be enforced against the MWAA. Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton disagreed, saying the state could still withhold the money, even if the legislature lacks authority to govern the MWAA.
Republicans reportedly “bristled” at the attorney general's position – which since has been clarified to align with that of the Administration.
VIRGINIA VOTES TOMORROW IN SUPER TUESDAY PRIMARY: Insiders predict Romney will sweep Virginia’s 49 convention delegates, taking a substantial lead over his rivals for the GOP nomination. His top competitors, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich won’t even be on the ballot here. In most of the other nine Super Tuesday states, contenders are expected to divide the delegate count in close contests.
“Super Tuesday” brings contests in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. UVA professor Larry Sabato predicts Romney will snare 212 delegates Tuesday, while Santorum will win 163. The difference is 49 delegates, precisely the count in Virginia.
“Our guesstimate of Romney’s delegate edge — 49 over Santorum — comes almost entirely from Virginia. Subtract out Virginia, and Super Tuesday becomes essentially a draw.” See more here on Sabato’s analysis.
Virginia played a crucial role in presidential primaries in 2004, securing the nomination for George Bush over a strong challenge from John McCain. And in 2008, Virginia’s primary turnout shattered all records in the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
- Polls are open 6:00 AM – 7:00 PM Tuesday March 6.
- Delegates at stake in Virginia: 49
- Total Delegates up for grabs Tuesday: 419
- Delegates already won: Romney 203; Santorum 92; Gingrich 33; Paul 25.
CIRCUIT COURT TOSSES REDISTRICTING LAWSUIT: At issue was the General Assembly’s tardiness in drawing new congressional district maps. State constitutional language says the legislature “shall” get it done in calendar year 2011. They were late, but a plan has been approved by lawmakers, signed by the Governor and now awaits approval by the U.S. Justice Department.
Plaintiffs argued that the General Assembly’s failure to get the job done in 2011 warranted a court-ordered redistricting plan. Circuit Court Judge Richard Taylor, Jr. disagreed:
“If the ratifiers and the framers of the Constitution explicitly intended to foreclose the General Assembly from enacting decennial reapportionment legislation in 2012, then they would have included language to this effect.”
He went on to say that judicial intervention at this point – now that the legislature has passed a redistricting plan – would serve only to further delay successful reapportionment, precisely the problem the plaintiffs sought to remedy.
In a footnote, the judge commented that a judicially imposed reapportionment plan would be inappropriate even if the plaintiffs had prevailed. “Virginia jurisprudence suggests that the appropriate remedy is an Order directing the General Assembly to act.”
CONGRESSIONAL PRIMARIES AWAIT NEW MAPS: Legal challenges aside, Virginia is still waiting for the U.S. Department of Justice to affirm that the new congressional maps comport with the Voting Rights Act. Because the filing deadline for candidates is less than a month away, the Virginia House and Senate have passed a bill that would move primaries for the U.S. House and Senate from June 12 to August 7 if the Justice Department does not approve the lines by April 3.
Readily agreed to by Virginia’s 11 incumbent Representatives, the congressional redistricting plan is widely viewed as a plan that will safely ensconce incumbents.
SPEAKING OF INCUMBENT PROTECTION: Efforts to enact a bi-partisan redistricting commission failed last week when a House subcommittee killed Sen. Jill Vogel’s SB 446 to establish a 7-member commission to redraw state and congressional legislative districts after the 2020 census. Several measures to reform the process and limit gerrymandering in the next decennial redistricting were supported by the Virginia Redistricting Coalition, a non-partisan, statewide group of organizations and individuals including the Virginia Business Council, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Norfolk Corporation.
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