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

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Special Session: Two for the price of one

Legislators are rolling back into Richmond tonight and tomorrow for a double header on Wednesday — the veto override session of the regular session, followed 10 minutes later by another stab at doing a budget/transportation deal as part of the special session.

But there was activity in the General Assembly Building today, as the Senate Finance Committee met to take testimony from key players around the state. Find the presentations and documents in question here.

On the House side, Speaker Bill Howell let reporters know he wasn't happy with what he heard coming from the Senate and Executive Mansion.

From the Speaker's press release:

"It is disappointing that those opposed to passing a fiscally responsible, constitutionally sound, and timely budget are continuing to employ campaign-style tactics, complete with misrepresentations of our current circumstances and dire forecasts intended to engender fear," remarked Speaker Howell.

"The facts directly contradict their description of the solutions offered by the House, so we felt compelled to explain the realities of the current situation and dispel the flawed myths floating out of and around Capitol Square."

Opponents of the House plan have erroneously characterized it as being heavily laden with state-backed debt. In fact, the House budget contains slightly less debt, $339 million, than the budget as introduced by the Governor, $341 million.

This limited use of leveraged funding is consistent with the formula established through legislation sponsored by Chairman Callahan and Senator Chichester and signed into law by Governor Warner in 2002 [HB 1285 and SB 402, 2002 Session].

By responsibly incorporating debt into its financial plan, the House spending plan would complete several projects reduced or eliminated by the Senate, including a new cancer center at the University of Virginia, a new biomedical research facility at George Mason, and new or improved facilities at state parks.

"The Senate has chosen to appropriate funds for the planning of future state office buildings — including a new building for the General Assembly — that will ultimately be financed with higher taxes or increased debt burdens," commented Chairman Callahan.

"In contrast, the House has opted to take advantage of the AAA bond rating Virginia has earned and has fought so hard to maintain. Even in transportation, the $1.2 billion in funding provided by the House transportation plan for the upcoming biennium does not include a single dollar of debt. The repeated manipulation of the facts by the Governor and his representatives and by members of the other body is both frustrating and disheartening."
Meanwhile, a transportation debate of another sort is getting white hot in the Valley of Virginia. VDOT brought their vision of Interstate 81 in 2035 to Winchester on Tuesday night, and there were some in attendance none too happy with what they saw.

Look to this space later this evening for a recap of what VDOT wants and what those in attendance think about it.