Aside from the overspent state budget and resulting deficit, the biggest news coming out of the capitol this week has been the House Republican Caucus’ decision to record sub-committee votes (see Richmond Times-Dispatch, here). (As the GOP is the majority, the rule change will pass, although House Dems favor recorded sub-committee votes as well.)
This certainly will spice up a session already promising to be electric because of factors ranging from the budget deficit to the 2009 statewide and House elections. It certainly will give us more fodder for our e-mail alerts. (More on that in the next post.)
Another issue that promises to bring a lot of heat and fireworks to the cold of January and February, is an issue that ties all of this (i.e., transparency, the budget and politics) together — bills to bring the state budget online so that all Virginians will have the opportunity to see how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent. Not only is this an issue that should win on principle (the people have a right to know) but in these times of economic disaster caused by unaccountable people and institutions, what better safeguard is there than to have millions of citizen watchdogs perusing the use of billions of their own tax dollars? Although online budgets are in effect in several states now, and Virginia should be embarrassed it is not leading on this issue, since we bill ourselves as the “Digital Dominion,” sometimes great opportunities only arise from trying times, which we surely are in.
However, last year the House Republicans only went so far as to study the matter in committee. A combination of Republicans and Democrats teamed up to kill the bill in a Senate committee, ostensibly afraid of the cost to implement the project, with one senior Democrat invoking “the children” as a reason to kill the measure. Ostensibly, because, they are afraid to let the people take a peak inside their palace of power, which is the budget itself.
Now that House Republicans are in a reform mode, the only question is how far will they and their Senate colleagues go? Or, should the question be, why wouldn’t they be for budget transparency given it’s wide appeal (and Founding Fathers’ wisdom)? It’s a winning issue and it is an election year. You don’t need easy to understand budget numbers to figure how those add up.