Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gov. McDonnell urges Senate Democrats to cooperate on budget

Governor Bob McDonnell

RICHMOND— Governor Bob McDonnell sent a letter yesterday to Senator Richard Saslaw and Senate Democrats urging them to pass a budget in today’s General Assembly special session meeting, reminding them of the ramifications on state government of failure to pass a budget bill and that negotiators had already met most of their budget demands in an effort to keep the state’s spending bill alive. 

Governor McDonnell’s letter said, “In a previous letter to you dated March 19, 2012…we expressed our concerns regarding what would happen if there was no agreement on a state budget. Since that time much good bipartisan work has been done to pass a Senate budget and agree on a conference report. Unfortunately, there has recently been discussion by several in the Senate again on not approving a budget without additional funding for two very specific transportation projects in the Commonwealth, namely the Dulles Rail extension and the Midtown/Downtown Tunnel improvements. This cannot happen and will have disastrous effects on Virginia.” 

Governor McDonnell also addressed plans under way at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to shut down highway work if a budget should not pass today, due to requirements to provide contractors 60 days notice of termination of work. “The current delay in finalizing a budget has already resulted in VDOT initiating its planning process for the potential shutdown of many significant transportation projects currently under way, with many other impacts in other areas of state and local government soon to follow as previously outlined in detail. VDOT has previously planned for potential shut-downs in 2004 and 2006 when there were budget impasses. At that time, the agency initiated its internal planning process to demobilize work, which takes two months. VDOT is repeating that planning process now due to the budget impasse. The two-month lead time is needed to secure the construction site, ensure safety of motorists, demobilize equipment, cancel shipments and materials and process all billing so contractors are paid for work done prior to June 30, 2012. VDOT is initiating its internal planning process as a matter of good business so the agency can fulfill its responsibility to pay contractors.”

He continued, “If there is no budget passed on Tuesday, there will be prompt adverse consequences on local governments and schools, as well as VDOT and other state agencies postponing contracts due to the uncertainty of funding.”

The governor also reminded Senate Democrats that major concessions had already been made by negotiators to meet their stated demands in the spirit of compromise to pass a budget and keep Virginia’s government funded past June 30, 2012, including asking the Commonwealth Transportation Board to delay the collection of the Midtown Tunnel tolls in Hampton Roads. “Senate Democrats received some major concessions in the conference budget as you requested, despite waiting nearly 60 days to outline your objections. By our estimates, you were successful in reallocating $166.5 million in general fund dollars to priorities you demanded. That certainly indicates that there has already been significant compromise on the part of the budget conferees. It is time to approve the compromise and move forward. There is another day to discuss other transportation needs.”

“The time to act has long passed,” Governor McDonnell said, “and I ask you and your colleagues to vote in support of the conference report tomorrow. I will work to act on amendments in less than the normal 30 day review period so that we can reach finality for our citizens.

Assuming the General Assembly approves the recent budget compromise reached by its negotiators, the governor has committed to work quickly to conduct his review in an effort to bring finality to the process for all Virginians.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Finance, Politics, State Politics

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