Following Senate Democrats unprecedented partisan rejection of the Virginia state budget, again, Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement:
Today, Senate Democrats cast the most fiscally reckless vote I have witnessed in my 21 years in office. They have killed an $85 billion state budget that benefits all Virginians, for one earmark regarding an 11.4 mile rail project in one district of the Commonwealth. That is extremely irresponsible. Senate Democrats, again, put partisan politics ahead of the needs of 8 million Virginians. They brought their political agendas to the Senate floor, and in the process have put at risk a Bristol teacher’s paycheck, a Chesterfield sheriff’s salary, healthcare for a senior citizen in Hampton, road projects in Richmond, and the fiscal soundness of the entire Commonwealth. Unfortunately, this is not the first time they have done so.
When the General Assembly convened in January, Senate Democrats were clear that they wished to use the state budget as a means to gain more committee assignments. As one Senate Democrat wrote at the time, “the real reason the Senate Budget must lose — at this point — is so the power balance in Richmond can be adjusted.” For the 60 days of the regular session, they refused to pass any budget, despite multiple individual meetings, letters and conversations with them. They voted down two budgets.
Last month, Senate Democrats gave a few policy reasons to explain their obstruction. They were met with broad accommodation by Senate Republicans. They sought more funding for healthcare and education. They gained it. In fact they gained nearly $170 million in reallocated funding for the issues they identified as priorities for their caucus. Throughout budget negotiations, Republican legislators and this office worked strenuously to ensure that Senate Democrats were heard in the budget process. Only after these compromises were achieved did Senate Democrats turn, in the last days of session, to a third reason for opposing a budget: toll abatement on the Dulles Toll Road.
Since 2009, when Governor Tim Kaine signed the deal on the tolls and the rates were publicized, and no state funding was provided, Senate Democrats were silent. They offered no objections to the tolls for nearly three years. Then, at the very end of this session, after killing two budgets on the floor, Senate Democrats decided that they would make that their next issue. This will have serious consequences for all Virginians.
Budgets are a tapestry of compromises. No legislator ever gets everything he or she wants in a governing fiscal document. Nonetheless, all involved can get much of what they seek if there is cooperation and civility in the process. The budget killed by Senate Democrats today was a positive document. This budget made historic investments in our higher education system so more Virginia students can access and afford our great colleges and universities. It reduced unfunded liabilities in our retirement system by nearly $9 billion by 2031, an historic achievement that ensures our dedicated state employees will receive the retirements they have been counting on. The budget combined accountability and innovation with over half a billion dollars in new funding for our K-12 system. It improved public education in the Commonwealth. And this budget provided fiscal liquidity and stability for Virginia as we continue to navigate a very uncertain economy. Now, Senate Democrats, continuing a trend, have killed a budget for a third time. They will have to answer to every single Virginian. This vote will have real consequences in creating uncertainty and chaos for local governments, school boards and countless agencies and individuals.
I encourage all Virginians to contact the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus today to let them know that this vote is unacceptable. First, the members killed the state budget to make a point about committee assignments. Then, they demanded more funding for healthcare and education, which they received. Then, they brought up an entirely new reason for voting against the budget, an earmark for am 11.4 mile rail project in one area of the state. Teacher and sheriff salaries are now at risk. Local governments and school boards do not know what level of state funding they will receive. Road and other state projects will have to be stopped in every single region in the near future. All because Senate Democrats continue to obstruct the passage of the state budget. They even killed the ‘caboose’ budget for the remainder of FY 2012, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Dulles tolls. This is an incredibly disappointing development. This is the kind of conduct we’ve come to expect out of Democrats in the U.S. Senate, where no budget has passed for over 1000 days. It is not the conduct we would expect from Democrats who serve in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol. Senate Democrats need to hear from all Virginians about the direct and immediate impact their partisan posturing will have on the citizens of this Commonwealth.