The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, September 23, 2005

Political notebook...

House Speaker Howell chides Warner over budget draft
RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner is months away from submitting his last budget to the General Assembly, but it’s already drawing fire from some legislators.

House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, issued a statement this week criticizing Warner’s base budget for the 2006-2008 biennium.

As drawn, the spending plan would cut some $290 million in transportation funding from last year’s budget as well as another $100 million for water quality improvement.

“The governor proudly signed these House Republican legislative initiatives into law just a few months ago,” Howell said.

“Not only are the administration’s actions misguided, but they also fail to recognize previous fund commitments by the General Assembly clearly expressed in the Code of Virginia.”

Howell said the administration appeared to be taking a “cavalier attitude toward the law.”

The administration shot back in the form of a memo from Director of Planning and Budgets Richard Brown. Base budgets are just a place to start the planning exercise.

“It has no other significance,” he wrote.

Wolf: No Katrina aid for casinos
WASHINGTON, D.C. — One local legislator is concerned about the extension of potential tax breaks to the gaming industry in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, said on the floor of the House of Representatives that plans to give tax breaks to businesses in the hurricane zone shouldn’t include casinos.

“I cannot believe the White House is planning to provide the gambling industry in the Gulf region with special tax breaks as part of its economic recovery package,” Wolf said.

“This is a disgrace. In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, taxpayer dollars should be helping those in need . . . the poor, the vulnerable.”

Administration officials have said the government should play favorites when it comes to rebuilding. That rubs Wolf, who opposes the expansion of gambling, entirely the wrong way.

“The state of Mississippi does not even provide special economic development tax breaks for the gambling interests,” Wolf said.

“This is outrageous,” he added. “With budget deficits growing to historic levels, tax breaks for the gambling industry do not make sense. This special interest tax break can only make a tragic situation worse.”

Wolf sent a letter to President Bush later in the day.

“I trust you will do the right thing and make sure federal resources go to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable and not the gambling interests who already have insurance to cover catastrophic events like hurricanes,” he wrote.