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, June 30, 2006

Trail notebook: Allen v. Webb

E-mails so vicious your computer cringes, packing more canned quotes than a 120 public relations hacks crammed into a VW bug. References to "glass dude ranches" and "Hollywood producers." And middle names used like four-letter words.

Oh, my.

The race between Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen and Democrat James Webb appears to be under way in earnest, with an intensity normally reserved for post-World Series politicking.

The e-mail box here at the mobile NV Daily political bureau is filling up like the basement of the National Archives, as both campaigns fire off missive after missive, looking for a free hit of ink that might just take their opponent down a peg in the process.

Allen prods Webb on flag burning, Webb fires back with both barrels. Webb prods Allen on the minimum wage, Allen fires back with an e-mail that actually sent this reporter into the Internet Movie Database for some research. It's not even August. Nor is it July, as of this writing.

So why the vitriol so early? It's hard to say, but published pundits and back bench whisperers alike attribute it the fallout of the quasi-national interest in Kaine v. Kilgore last year. As an off year election, 2005 was fought as almost a continuation of 2004 Bush v. Kerry.

Now, with a somewhat red state (re)electing a Democratic governor, Allen's campaign takes on sort of a "windsock" quality for the direction of the national body politic, at least according to the observers I pester week to week. Has the Bush administration's rotten poll numbers and general disdain for the GOP controlled Congress coalesced into enough energy to upset a prominent Republican? It's the $64,000 question ...

And let's not forget that George Allen might be running for president in 2008. While it might be the worst kept secret in Washington, Democrats would nonetheless be happy to take out a potential challenger to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., or former Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner more than two years from Election Day.

So the rapid-fire campaign e-mails continue apace, with some polling data dashed in every so often just to spice things up. And it's still 13 weeks to Election Day.

It's almost enough to make the iBook of Mild Peril reboot itself. But not quite.

Full Story...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poll: Allen would win re-election; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Maybe the race for the U.S. Senate in Virginia isn’t that close, after all.

Had the election been held Wednesday, incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen would have won re-election with 56 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Democratic nominee James Webb, according to a new poll done this week by SurveyUSA for TV stations in Roanoke and Washington.

Some 5 percent said they would vote for another candidate, and 3 percent said they were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

The poll stands in contrast to two other recent surveys by Zogby and Rasmussen Reports, which found a five-point and 10-point Allen lead, respectively.

Findings from the poll of 533 “likely” voters include:

• Webb leads among the 41 percent of voters who identified themselves as moderate, 49 percent to Allen’s 41 percent.

• Some 53 percent of voters asked said they disapprove of President Bush’s job performance, while 43 percent approve. Not surprisingly, 95 percent of those who approved of Bush said they support fellow Republican Allen.

But of those who disapprove of Bush’s job performance, 66 percent said they would vote for Webb, while 22 would vote for Allen.

• Allen holds a solid lead across three of the four geographic areas identified in the poll — winning the Shenandoah region, Southeast and central Virginia by no fewer than 19 points.

“Jim Webb was busy touting the Zogby poll last week, but we haven’t heard him talking much about this one,” said Allen spokesman Bill Bozin. “Senator Allen, of course, is not paying attention to any of these polls — he’s focused on his job representing Virginians in the Senate.”

The Webb campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The results come on the heels of a bruising war of press releases from the two campaigns over the failed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

This week’s volley started when the Allen campaign chided Webb for not immediately declaring his position on the ill-fated vote.

Webb’s campaign responded with a mildly worded statement, saying that the candidate “does not believe it is necessary to amend the Constitution in order to protect the dignity of our flag.” Allen’s camp sensed an opening and grabbed it, attempting to tie Webb to some of the Senate’s liberal icons.

“James H. Webb, Jr. continues to demonstrate he is totally beholden to the liberal Washington Senators who dragged him across the line in the Democratic primary,” Dick Wadhams, Allen’s campaign manager, said in an e-mail to reporters.

Webb’s camp responded with a blistering rebuke.

“Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb they are attacking every man and woman who served,” said Webb spokesman Steve Jarding in an e-mail to reporters.

“Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards,” Jarding continued.

“While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.’s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield.”

Election Day is Nov. 7.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Transportation proposal uses regional taxes; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

A half-dozen Republican legislators, including one local delegate, are trying to sell their colleagues on a set of tax increases for transportation improvements in Northern Virginia.

It’s going to be a tough sell, but Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, is undeterred.

“We expect opposition,” said May, who represents all of Clarke County and the western section of Loudoun County.

But “Northern Virginia is in such desperate straits that we’ve got to do something separate to make something livable out of it,” he said.

The solution? Regional taxes for regional fixes.

May was one of 17 delegates who split with the GOP House in 2004 and supported a $1.5 billion slate of tax increases put forward by Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner and backed by Republicans in the Senate.

But May and his brethren balked this year when Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and the Senate came knocking with a budget that included at times more than $1 billion per year in new taxes for transportation.

“We’re trying to assist Northern Virginia out of a very, very deep hole that’s been dug in terms of transportation,” May said.

Some other local legislators have said the full GOP caucus would likely oppose higher taxes, but have hinted that there may be some flexibility when it comes to regional authorities.

“You remember … [the] song ‘Makin’ the Best of a Bad Situation?’ That may well be our theme song,” May joked.

Congestion is simply too bad in the region to ignore.

“It’s not bad, it’s critical,” he said. Fixing the problem will take anywhere from $400 million to $600 million per year over 10 years in new spending.

The plan calls for an increase in taxes charged on lodging and rental cars to collect from tourists, and new levies on cars and houses to collect from drivers and developers.

It also calls for impact fees to be charged for new homes, regardless of whether they require a rezoning, as well as a $3 per $100 of assessed value commercial and industrial buildings fee.

All together, the new levies would raise about $451 million per year, but would only come as far west as Loudoun County.

The GOP proposal looks something like a plan put forward by the Senate earlier this year — money from local taxes will be spent by a regional authority, rather than the Virginia Department of Transportation.

That plan and others are still pending before the House Finance Committee. Delegates have said they’ll return sometime around September to start an intensive session on road and rail issues.

That’s welcome news to the Virginia Senate, said Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, in an interview last week.

All four of the pending plans, including one authored by Potts, let three or more cities and counties throw in together to form regional taxing authorities for regional projects, but wouldn’t take effect without some kind of statewide legislation.

Senators want to see what kind of solutions the House of Delegates comes up with, after having thrown their own bevy of plans out over the first half of 2006.

Any real solution, though, will have to contain new revenues in the form of some tax hikes, Potts said. It’ll also have to have a statewide component.

May didn’t disagree with Potts.

“It’s not that we don’t need additional funding for transportation statewide,” he said. “It’s just that particularly in Northern Virginia, and to a lesser extent in Hampton Roads, it’s reached a critical stage.”

Getting all the money Northern Virginia needs through a statewide plan would be inefficient, May said. As of now, the region sends about $350 million per year to the state’s transportation budget, but it only gets $150 million back.

Legislators will be back in Richmond today to give final passage to the state’s two-year spending plan.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

State lawmakers to head back to table on transportation issues; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Don’t look for a broken record when Virginia legislators go back to Richmond to talk about transportation later this year. But it’s a safe bet that a few of the songs will be golden oldies.

Legislators are due back in Richmond on Wednesday to complete their work on this year’s budget by acting on line-item vetoes and recommendations from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

Final details haven’t been worked out, but both the GOP-led House of Delegates and Senate expect to be back again in September to talk about roads, rails and revenue.

Local GOP delegates say they’re still working on their play book.

“Where we are as a caucus or a party on that right now I can’t tell you,” said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, although more local control and no general tax hikes are likely candidates.

“You go just a little bit north of here, and the world changes significantly. [Northern Virginia’s] issues are different from our issues out here,” he said.

As for tax increases, “I don’t think that’s something we’re going to be keen on in September, either,” Gilbert said.

One big item will likely be a long, hard look at the basic structure of the state’s transportation bureaucracy, said Del. Clay Athey, R-Front Royal.

Legislators need to “look at who should be maintaining our roads,” he said. Some delegates are “not just assuming that it should be the Virginia Department of Transportation.”

Republicans worked during the regular session to shift authority back toward local governments and away from VDOT, which maintains the vast majority of roads in the state.

“Virginia being one of only four states in the country where the state maintains the local feeder system is not something to be jumping up and down about,” Athey said.

One proposal that might come forward would be sending funding and authority for local road maintenance and construction back to cities and counties. That would put decisions about development and roads in the same place — city councils and boards of supervisors.

That’s not to say every county would suddenly have its own highway department, according to Athey.

“If you live in a city or a county that has more than 100,000 people, if we provide you the funding, you’ve got more than enough expertise to build and maintain your own roads,” he said.

Central planning of the road system has not worked, and the system has been showing cracks for a while, “much like the politburo in the Soviet Union,” Athey said. VDOT is made up of “fine, hard working public servants, but the system that they work in leads to mass inefficiency.”

Look for other proposals, including tolls and regional transportation initiatives, he said.

But “I doubt very seriously that it’ll include a statewide tax increase,” Athey said.
Senators would like nothing more than to see a bumper crop of legislation come out of the House of Delegates, said Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester.

“Absolutely,” Potts said. “But that being said … let’s face reality here, take a disciplined leadership stance and know that you have to have new money to fix transportation.”
And the House already has the Senate’s vision of how to fix things, the senator said.

“They’ve got four proposals they haven’t acted on over there yet,” he said.

Potts proposed one of four regional plans that effectively died in a House committee. Each would have allowed local governments to band together and raise some kind of taxes for local projects.

Now that the bitter budget fight is over, the two chambers have to come together and find some compromise, he said.

“I go into this thing with a spirit of goodwill,” Potts said, praising his House colleagues for their service to the commonwealth.

Disagreement “doesn’t make them wrong and me right,” he said. “We’ve got to pull together here now. There’s no silver bullet.”

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Polls show Webb gaining on Allen; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Two polls released this week had good news for Democratic U.S. Senate challenger James Webb.

Meanwhile, Republican incumbent George Allen threw down the gauntlet over Iraq. Webb, a former Reagan administration secretary of the Navy, seeks to unseat Allen, a former governor running for his second six-year term.

Two new polls released this week show the challenger within striking distance, but the incumbent still holding a lead outside the margin of error.

A survey of 500 likely voters last week found Allen with a 10-point lead on Webb, 51 percent to 41 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Meanwhile, a Zogby-Wall Street Journal poll of Senate races across the country shows Webb with support from 43.5 percent of the electorate, while Allen has 48.8 percent. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Both surveys send “a message to Senator Allen that folks aren’t happy with his representation,” said Kristian Denny Todd, Webb’s communications director.

Allen’s positions too closely reflect those of the Bush administration, Todd said.

“It’s been Bush policy rubber-stamping representation,” she said. “They’re ready for a change.”

But this week’s polling doesn’t mean anything, according to the Allen campaign.

Dick Wadhams, Allen’s campaign manager, didn’t mince words on either survey, in particular the numbers.

“[Zogby’s] numbers are a joke,” Wadhams said, noting that the pollster predicted President Bush would lose the election in 2004. “The Wall Street Journal ought to be embarrassed that they hired him.”

The Rasmussen poll is “more credible than Zogby,” but should still be taken with a grain of salt, he added.

The real issue of the week, Wadhams said, is Thursday’s vote in the U.S. Senate on amendments that would have called for a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who endorsed and campaigned with Webb before the primary earlier this month, introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have called on troops to be out of Iraq by July 2007.

“Here we have the most important debate in the U.S. Senate on Iraq in a year,” Wadhams said. “He has been silent all week? Why wasn’t he willing to stand up and be counted on those amendments, one of which was sponsored by his friend and ally John Kerry?”

Allen advocates staying in Iraq until the new government is able to handle its own security problems via the new army and other security forces, calling Kerry’s amendment a “retreat.”

Calling Webb out on Iraq “is kind of laughable, given that Senator Allen has one position, and that’s the president’s position,” Todd said. “He takes every cue from the administration.”
She said the Democratic candidate has been unequivocal about his stance.

“[Webb] favors immediate withdrawal from Iraq,” Todd said. “He would argue against setting a date certain, because the focus of the issue becomes a date, rather than the process.”

Instead, nations such as Syria, Bahrain and Kuwait need to be called to the table to talk about how and when the United States could begin leaving, she said. Multi-national talks are essential.

“Ultimately, they’ll always be living in the region with the Iraqis, so they need to be involved in the process,” she said. “Once these steps were taken, and withdrawal begins, all U.S. troops should be out of Iraq in a year and a half to two years.”

Webb told reporters last week that U.S. troops in Iraq were making the security situation worse, rather than better.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

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Sabato: Democratic wave likely wouldn't claim Wolf; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Knocking off a 13-term incumbent Republican congressman in Northern Virginia is no easy task.

That’s one reason this year’s Democratic challenger for the seat that includes much of the Northern Shenandoah Valley is campaigning hard well before the home stretch, according to political scientists.

Judy Feder, the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, is running against Republican Rep. Frank Wolf in the 10th District, which stretches from Winchester to Fairfax County, including places like Manassas and McLean.

A Wolf loss would be a serious upset, according to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics in Charlottesville.

Democrats are riding a wave of voter frustration over ethics scandals, federal spending and the war in Iraq to what they hope is control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994.

Feder has to build momentum early, Sabato said, or else end up swamped by Wolf in what would ordinarily be the home stretch.

“This is her best chance and only chance,” Sabato said.

But will that wave break on the 10th District’s shore?

“I doubt it,” said Sabato. “I think that Wolf will be in good shape regardless. If we’re talking about a [Democratic] wave, they pick up 20 seats.”

“Wolf’s not even close to being in the 20,” he said.

That’s why the early message from Feder — that she can win — is simple, said Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

Feder’s campaign has spent much of its early efforts trying to tie Wolf to the Bush administration and popular discontent while pointing out their own successes.

In the past two weeks the campaign has released an internal poll claiming to show Wolf unpopular in the district, as well as charges that the White House and Wolf are too close to major oil companies.

Such attacks are as much about talking to the Democratic faithful as they are about reaching undecideds or converting Republican voters, Brians said.

In particular, Feder’s camp is speaking to its potential donors in the 10th District, Brians said.
Feder’s campaign has substantial ground to make up in terms of total fundraising. Wolf had $518,000 on hand at the end of the May reporting period, compared to her $268,000.

So far, Feder’s money has mostly come from outside the 10th District. Only 14 percent of her donations from individuals came from inside Virginia, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of all ZIP codes that have donated to her campaign, Chevy Chase, Md., has given the most, $16,650, followed by Washington, D.C., $14,600, and New York City, $11,550.

Wolf, on the other hand, has raised 79 percent of his individual donations from Virginia — $30,800 from McLean, $21,500 from Great Falls and another $13,950 from another ZIP code in McLean.

Feder’s campaign has to hit early and often to build a perception that they can win and aren’t just tilting at windmills, Brians said.

The basic message has to be “we are not Ross Perot,” he said. “We are not irrelevant. Other people have done it too, join the winning team.”

For Wolf, the message is vastly different, Brians said. The campaign would do well to point out just how useful a 26-year veteran of the House can be to his district.

Wolf is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce Science State Justice subcommittee. That subcommittee is responsible for the budget of agencies like NASA, the State Department, FBI and the Department of Commerce.

The campaign is “definitely going to point that out,” he said. The underlying message is that “if you get rid of me, you’re going to lose all this seniority.”

Election Day is Nov. 7.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Budget may mean more funds for teachers; A1

By Garren Shipley (Daily Staff Writer)

A compromise state budget approved by the Senate on Monday should make it easier to hire teachers in two Northern Shenandoah Valley counties in the near future.

Senators voted 36-0 in favor of a $72 billion budget deal that, if approved by the House of Delegates, would avoid a looming state government shutdown and provide new funding for schools in Clarke and Warren counties.

The two systems were included in the “cost of competition” for the first time. Systems near Washington, D.C., get extra money for teacher pay to help them hire in the highly competitive market.

All in all, it’s a good deal, said Del. Clay Athey, R-Front Royal.

“I guess the best description I can give to it is that the Senate acceded to the House’s position on a whole bunch of positions,” he said.

Both sides have plenty to be pleased with.

“We reached out and really accomplished some things with this budget,” Athey said.

“This has not been an easy exercise, as you must know,” Sen. John H. Chichester, R-Fredericksburg, told his colleagues on the floor of the Senate.

“Obviously compromises were made,” he said. “But what you have before you is an excellent general fund budget.”

The budget deal looks pretty good for Warren County, even without the cost of competition allowance, said Superintendent of Schools Pamela McInnis.

It’s “better than we had anticipated when all this budget talk had begun,” she said.

The new money is being phased in over time — 10 percent in fiscal 2007, 25 percent in 2008 — but it’s still a healthy chunk of change.

Warren will get an additional $206,769 this year, while Clarke will add $61,181. In 2008, those numbers go up to $564,000 and $155,000, respectively.

With Loudoun County within easy driving distance, local systems have to pay more money to recruit and keep teachers.

And Loudoun, one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, has a voracious appetite for teachers. McInnis said Loudoun is opening six new schools in the coming years.

“I certainly don’t fault them,” she said. “They’ve got to deal with their growing population.”
Area legislators also sought to have Winchester, Frederick and Shenandoah counties receive the additional funding, but were unsuccessful.

Other provisions of the budget give all state employees, including teachers, a 4 percent pay raise, and $200 million will go to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

“Part of that goes to a fund that gives zero-interest loans to those local governments [for wastewater treatment plants] so they can go ahead and build those facilities,” Athey said.

A number of communities in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Middletown, Winchester and Frederick County, are in the process of building new and upgrading existing wastewater treatment plants to deal with a growing population and tighter standards.

Drivers looking for car tax relief in this year’s budget will be disappointed, though.

Senate conferees carried the day and removed $50 million from the House version of the budget, money that would have been used to keep the state share of car tax payments at 70 percent.

Legislators capped the program at $950 million in 2004. That funding will be depleted this year, causing car tax bills to rise significantly in some areas of the state.

Senators also voted 24-9 with two abstentions to curtail the estate tax and make significant cuts to the state’s land conservation tax credit program.

Not everyone was happy with the deal.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, urged his colleagues to defeat the changes.
Virginians have claimed some $380 million in credits since the program began in 2000, Deeds said.

“We are retreating,” he said. “We are not cutting this program 5 percent or 10 percent, we’re cutting it 40 percent. I’m afraid we’re taking a big step backwards in terms of land conservation.”

“I’m not particularly happy with capping of the amount people can use for conservation easements,” Athey said before the Senate vote.

Local governments in the Northern Shenandoah Valley have made significant use of the program to encourage development in more urban areas.

“I’m not elated with that part of it,” he said. “But that’s part of a compromise.”

The House convenes today at noon.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Raw Data: House Statement on Budget Deal

Statement of House Speaker William J. Howell
-- Regarding Conference Agreement on New State Budget --

RICHMOND, VA – Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) this evening issued the following statement upon the agreement by House and Senate conferees on a new state budget:

“First and foremost, I am pleased – as can be all Virginians – that the task of reaching an agreement on a new budget for 2006-2008 has finally been completed. A new spending plan will be enacted by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor before the expiration of the current one on June 30.

“From the House’s viewpoint, consistency and patience have paid dividends for the hard-working, law-abiding and tax-paying people of Virginia. Although we might have completed our work months ago had the Senate not insisted upon unconstitutionally embedding tax increases in its budget, those tax hikes did not survive. The agreement that was reached today does not include a tax or fee increase for citizens of the Commonwealth during this time of budget surpluses and high gas prices. No House plan ever did. And now, we can say that about the final plan.

“While neither side got everything it wanted, the budget ultimately agreed upon will greatly benefit the people of Virginia. We are making record commitments to improve K-12 education and raise teacher salaries, strengthen public safety, increase access to health care, expand mental health care services, combat sexually violent predators, provide for our public colleges and universities, and protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, among other core priorities of state government.

“With this budget, Virginia also will bring an end to its onerous, unfair death tax. This tax, which has burdened family-owned farms and small businesses for generations, is being laid to rest as part of this budget agreement.

“Although today’s events are a critical step forward, the House remains committed to addressing Virginia’s transportation challenges. Because of the unwillingness of the Senate and the Governor to reserve a substantial portion of the available surplus for our roads, the House did not achieve anywhere near the funding for transportation in the current budget that it had wanted or approved. We fought hard for it, but – in the end – the Senate and the Governor refused to modify their funding for transportation without increasing taxes. We will leave it to them to explain why they were determined to starve transportation instead of using hundreds of millions of surplus dollars available to improve roads, rail and transit systems.

“I look forward to our returning to Richmond – after the passage of this budget next week – to continue the current special session and address transportation. As we did earlier this year, the House again will advance a balanced, comprehensive approach to reform, fund and improve Virginia transportation.”

# # #

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Raw Data: Senate Statement on Budget Deal

From the Virginia Senate Republican Leadership Trust...

Budget Conference Report Agreement
June 16, 2006

The agreement today on a budget by the Senate and House conference committee is good news for all Virginians. First, we will not have to travel over the uncharted waters of operating state government without specific budget authorization.

Just importantly, however, is the fact that we have a new, two-year spending plan that is sound, prudent and provides the important state services our citizens deserve and expect.

From the beginning, the Senate’s approach rested on two principles:

* At a time when there is a surplus it makes no sense to borrow money.
* No one program should be funded at the expense of another.

At the very outset the Senate insisted on taking up the capital portion of the budget since the House budget funded it with considerable borrowing. Once the House accepted that approach, a budget agreement balancing competing needs could be crafted. On several occasions the Senate had to insist that the negotiations encompass major differences in several program areas at once. It was important that no program get short shrift.

The budget agreement reached today meets both of those tests. It is a pay-as-you-go budget. Over $1 billion in construction projects are included without a penny of debt. Using cash saves over $1/2 billion in interest had a similar amount been financed over 20 years. And no funds traditionally used to support education, public safety, health care and the like are shifted to road building projects. The integrity of our funding system was preserved.

So what does this budget look like? Let’s take a look.

Tax Relief
Several tax relief measures passed, including:
* The repeal of the state estate tax, or so-called death tax takes effect July 1, 2007
* A back-to-school sales tax holiday will begin this August.
* A tax credit for the payment of long-term care insurance premiums is established.
* A tax credit for contributions designed to reduce tuition at schools for children with disabilities begins next year.

Over the last decade the General Assembly has passed over 50 tax relief measures the cumulative result of which is that Virginians pay over $1 billion less in taxes each year had they not been enacted. This figure will increase with the enactment of this budget which includes new tax relief included in the conference report at the suggestion of the Senate.

In K-12 education the basic aid to education was fully funded. Only with this investment can local governments have any prospects of holding the line on local real estate taxes. Teacher pay raises are provided for in both years of the budget.

In higher education more progress was made in meeting the states obligations in providing base adequacy which supports enrollment growth, faculty positions and faculty salaries. With 52,000 more students seeking admission to Virginia colleges in the next seven years, these investments are crucial.

In health care the state continues to assist in providing access to quality heath care at hospitals, nursing homes and community health centers. Particular attention was paid to preventive care, especially for children. Progress continues to be made in the mental health restructuring which moves to more community based care.

In natural resources the $200 million investment in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup is augmented by continued support for the Southern Rivers project and clean drinking water programs throughout the state. The Senate insisted that all parts of Virginia receive that attention, not just those in the bay watershed.

In public safety new state trooper and probation officer position were created to administer the toughened violent sexual predators program and the improved Sex Offender Registry. Also fully funded is a new, state of the art forensics lab to reduce the backlog of DNA and other sophisticated scientific testing. At the insistence of the Senate, additional positions for local prosecutors are enabled.

The New “T – Word” – Transportation
For the first time since 1986 a comprehensive look transportation needs was attempted. The two-year budget will preserve the current level of funding and not raid the General Fund. However, a long term solution remains the challenge facing this Special Session which continues.

Only if the Senate and House agree on legislation that both deem to be a “long range transportation funding plan” will $339 million in this year’s budget be released to spend on transportation. Thus the work of the General assembly continue

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Feder campaign poll says support for Wolf waning; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — The 10th District House of Representatives race is going to be a dogfight, according to the Demo-cratic challenger.

And her campaign says it has a poll and fundraising numbers to back it up.

Judy Feder, the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, seeks to unseat 13-term Republican Rep. Frank Wolf. The 10th District takes in areas from Winchester to Fairfax County, including places like Manassas and McLean.

Neither Feder nor Wolf faced a primary challenge last week, so the two automatically advance to the November ballot.

It’s going to be a competitive race for the 13-term incumbent, according to Feder’s campaign. An internal poll done for the campaign in May shows the race to be a dead heat.

The poll, done by Benneson Strategy Group in Arlington, asked 401 likely voters whether they’d support Wolf and about their feelings about government in general.

Of those polled, 40 percent said they’d vote for Wolf, while 16 percent said they’d vote to replace him. Some 31 percent said they’d consider someone else, while 13 percent didn’t know.

That’s a bad sign for Wolf, pollster Pete Brodnitz says in a memo to the Feder campaign.

“This is a remarkably low figure for a ... [13-term] incumbent,” he wrote. Coupled with a 58 percent disapproval rate for President Bush, the number makes it tough for a Republican incumbent seeking re-election.

“I think it gives us a positive outlook on the race,” said Feder campaign manager Jessie Bradley. “People are pretty unhappy with the direction of the country, and that’s what was reflected there.”

The candidate herself said she looked forward to running with newly nominated Senate candidate James Webb.

“I’m really excited to be running with Jim Webb as he takes on Senator George Allen,” she says in a written statement.

“I look forward to working closely with him in the 10th District, together holding Congress accountable for allowing President Bush and his friends in the oil industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and other special interests to lead our great country into disaster,” she said.

Feder trails Wolf in total campaign money raised — $687,000 to $385,000 as of May 24 — but she did pull in about $7,000 more than Wolf during the last reporting period.

A spokesman for the Wolf campaign declined to respond to Feder’s remarks, the internal poll or her latest round of fundraising success.

But campaign officials have been quick to point out in the past that some of Feder’s fundraising success is coming from far outside the 10th District.

As of the last reporting deadline, some $37,000 of the campaign’s $356,000 in individual donations had come from ZIP codes in New York state alone, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

Full Story...

Webb: U.S. Troops in Iraq 'Part of the Problem'; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Things in Iraq will get better when American troops pull out and the United States makes clear that it has “no long term objectives in terms of occupying Iraq,” Virginia’s Democratic U.S. Senate nominee said Friday.

James H. Webb, who was chosen this week to run against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen, told reporters on a conference call Friday that “Reagan Democrats” and other Virginians are looking for a new approach in Washington.

President Bush should tell the nascent Iraqi government to get ready to deal with its own problems and begin a careful withdrawal, Webb said.

But he couldn’t say what would trigger a troop withdrawal.

“I think a date certain is not the way to go,” Webb said, but troops should come out as soon as possible. “We got in kind of recklessly, so we need to get out carefully.

“I can’t sit out here simply as a candidate and give you a specific formula” for when the United States will leave, he said.

“Our troops in Iraq are a big part of the problem,” he said. “I support them tactically... but strategically I don’t think we have any value in having” U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq.

Webb also said he doesn’t buy the White House’s argument that Iraq is a “central front” in the war against terrorism.

Calls and e-mails to the Allen campaign for comment weren’t immediately returned Friday.

Webb won a bruising primary fight against former Washington lobbyist Harris N. Miller, taking home 53 percent of the vote to 46 percent.

The former secretary of the Navy overcame a substantial Miller fundraising advantage, but
Webb told reporters he understands that he can’t touch Allen’s $7.5 million — and growing — war chest.

“We’re never going to raise the kinds of money the George Allen has raised or will raise,” Webb said.

Even with all of his emphasis on Iraq, Webb insists his campaign is no one-trick pony.

“I think some people think this is a one-issue campaign. It’s not,” he said. The federal government has to deal with economic issues, he said, such as the emergence of China’s economy.

Legislators have to deal with “presidential overreach,” he said, referring to the Bush administration’s alleged domestic spying and information gathering programs.

“I believe we have something fresh to offer here. People are looking for new answers,” he said.

That’s the reason that people who identified as “‘Reagan Democrats’ in one era will come back” to the Democratic Party. Voters who felt better with President Reagan in charge of national security may now be put off by the “bellicosity” of the GOP, Webb said.

“I think my experience is representative. I went with the Republican Party on national security issues,” he said. But “I think there are people who were never comfortable with” the GOP on social and economic issues.

Webb doesn’t have a deep policy background; this is his first campaign. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he said.

“It is a learning curve for me on many issues,” he said, noting that he’s “still studying.”

“How do you define what you want in a leader?” he said. “No one is a master of every detail, and it’s wrong to pretend off of briefing sheets that we are.”

Election Day is Nov. 7.

Full Story...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Primary election no inexpensive operation; A1

Shenandoah County’s total cost may be as high as $23 per vote

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Voters weren’t beating down the doors to vote in Tuesday’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary, but they’re picking up the tab for the election just the same.

In fact, the primary in Shenandoah County might end up costing taxpayers as much as $23 per vote.

The final figures haven’t been computed yet, but it looks like the county’s primary cost about $12,200, according to Lisa P. McDonald, the county’s voter registrar.

She said Tuesday’s high cost per vote is simply an outcome of low turnout.

“In my county I had 515 voters,” McDonald said, for a turnout of 2.16 percent. But registrars don’t have the luxury of planning for just a handful of participants.

Machines have to be ready and paper ballots have to be printed, just in case, said Winchester Registrar Joyce Braithwaite.

“You never know,” she said. “That’s something you can’t predict, if you’re going to have 10 or you’re going to have 400.”

Virginia law gives political parties a number of ways to choose candidates — state-run primary, caucus, convention or a firehouse primary.

In party-run nomination methods, the political party has to bear all the expenses. But if the candidate or party opts to have the State Board of Elections and its local counterparts run the show, cities and counties pay the bills regardless of how many voters show up.

The trade-off for having the local governments pick up the tab, though, is that the primary must be open to everyone.

Virginia doesn’t register voters by party, and lets any registered voter cast a ballot. The only restriction is that voters can’t vote in both the Republican and Democratic primary on the same day. In most areas, Wednesday’s contest was solely a Democratic affair.

A Republican committee from Chesterfield County is seeking to overturn the open primary law in court, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond hasn’t yet decided the matter.

Braithwaite said it’s not clear how much the city spent on Tuesday’s electoral event, but she did say it probably won’t wind up being a bargain.

Bills are still coming in to the city’s electoral board for things like paper ballots for absentees and programming for the new touch-screen voting machines.

“Basically, it costs the same amount of money to run an election with a 3 percent turnout as it does to have an election in November that will hopefully have a 30 to 40 percent turnout,” she said.

In fact, the only difference between June and November will be the number of poll workers, who make $100 per day each.

“We had 40 for this election,” Braithwaite said. “We probably will have between 50 to 60 for a November election,”

Registrars in Warren and Frederick counties both said they don’t have total costs for their elections tabulated yet, which saw 384 and 582 voters respectively.

With 99.88 percent of all precincts in the commonwealth reporting as of late Wednesday afternoon, voter turnout for the election was 3.44 percent, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Expensive or not, that number doesn’t look bad compared with previous primary elections.

When Republicans took to the polls last year to pick a gubernatorial nominee, 3.98 percent of voters cast a ballot, while 4.23 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2001 Democratic attorney general primary.

Only Virginia’s presidential primary elections garner much interest from voters.

When Democrats nominated U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., to run for the nation’s highest office in 2004, 9.32 percent of voters came to the polls to cast a ballot in Virginia’s Democratic contest.

Some 17.28 percent of registered voters turned up in 2000 for the GOP presidential primary.

Election Day is Nov. 7.

Full Story...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Webb defeats Miller; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Virginia voters on Tuesday selected former Reagan administration Secretary of the Navy James H. Webb as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate by some 7 percentage points.

He advances to face incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen in November.

Webb, a native of Gate City, defeated the better-financed campaign of former technology lobbyist Harris N. Miller of Fairfax County, 54 percent to 46 percent, with 96.8 percent of precincts reporting.

Votes streamed into the Virginia State Board of Elections shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m., and the advantage shifted back and forth from minute to minute as cities and counties reported their tallies.

But by 8:30 p.m., it was obvious there weren’t enough precincts left in the right places for Miller to overcome the 8,900-vote lead Webb built up in the urban crescent — Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Webb, a former Republican, came under attack from Miller supporters late in the campaign over whether he is a genuine Democrat.

Webb’s camp worked hard in the last hours of the campaign to overcome Miller’s charges he was “un-Democratic,” calling in Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., for an election-eve rally.

Miller hammered Webb repeatedly on the charge, sending out mailers asking voters which candidate “can Democrats count on,” and pointing out Webb’s association with Reagan and his past criticisms of President Clinton.

However, it was endorsements from established Democrats that helped Webb carry the day, the candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“Everywhere I went, I had to face a room where people wondered if I really was a Democrat,” he said. “When these people stepped forward to endorse, they were saying they were comfortable with my values.”

Miller conceded defeat, and said in a written statement that he’d back Webb in the general election.

“Because at the end of the day, while Jim and I may disagree on some things, we absolutely agree on this — it’s time to bring real change to Washington, and that change MUST begin with replacing George Allen in the United States Senate,” Miller said.

Miller was first to the field, announcing his candidacy early and building a substantial fundraising lead. The candidate gave almost $1 million of his own money to the effort, including a six-figure contribution in the closing days of the campaign.

As of the final Federal Election Commission reporting period in May, Miller had raised more than $1.2 million, compared to Webb’s $548,000.

While Webb’s campaign might have been outgunned in the wallet, it did have one asset that Miller didn’t — the strong support of an enthusiastic Internet following.

Democratic Internet activists, including a significant number who supported Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s successful election bid, launched a “Draft James Webb” effort in late 2005.

In the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the few voters who showed up left no doubt about who they wanted to see face Allen in November. Webb carried four localities by at least 10 percent, and two — Shenandoah and Clarke counties — by more than 30 percent.

Only Warren County, the farthest east of the five localities, seemed to have trouble making up its mind. Webb carried the county by four votes, or less than 1 percent.

Neither candidate made the reliably Republican Northern Shenandoah Valley a big part of their campaign. Webb made one early morning visit to Winchester, while Miller dropped in on the area’s largest city twice.

Valley turnout was low, lower even than the statewide total of about 3.5 percent.
Clarke County set the bar, with 3.27 percent of voters casting a ballot. Only 1.42 percent of Frederick County’s registered voters cast a ballot. No locality saw more than 600 total ballots cast.

Full Story...

Webb defeats Miller: How the Northern Valley Voted

The Democratic Senate primary was the only contest on the ballot in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Turnout numbers closely matched the statewide results, but valley voters expressed a definite preference for former Navy Secretary James Webb over former IT lobbyist Harris Miller.

The only locality with a close vote was Warren County, where Webb won by four votes.

Clarke County
Turnout: 3.27 percent

Miller: 90 votes, 31.69 percent
Webb: 194 votes, 68.31 percent

Frederick County
Turnout: 1.42 percent

Miller: 260 votes, 44.67 percent
Webb: 322 votes, 55.33 percent

Shenandoah County
Turnout: 2.16 percent

Miller: 171 votes, 33.20 percent
Webb: 344 votes, 66.80 percent

Warren County
Turnout: 1.66 percent

Miller: 172 votes, 49.43 percent
Webb: 176 votes, 50.57 percent

Turnout: 3.00 percent

Miller: 164 votes, 39.14 percent
Webb: 255 votes, 60.86 percent

— Source: Virginia State Board of Elections

Full Story...


The polls close in two hours. So, for your reading entertainment in the interim, some statistics about people who read this site. I've been meaning to post some of these things for awhile, but I haven't had a sufficient moment of boredom to do so until now.

Operating System
The vast majority of y'all are running Windows XP, 79 percent. About 13 percent are running some flavor of Mac OS X. Another 6 percent are running Windows 2000 (who are you people?) and 1 percent appear to be Linux folk. Yet another 1 percent are "unknown," which I'd take to be Windows Vista beta testers or some Windows 9x holdouts.

This one surprised me. Last time I checked, Firefox hadn't even registered yet. Now it's up to 30 percent. Internet Explorer 6.x is still winning at 66 percent, but it's falling fast, at least when it comes to users of this site. Safari 1.x still checks in at 3 percent and Netscape 5.x (remember that?) clings to life at 1 percent.

Of all the Internet service providers that hit this site, some 22 percent don't leave a calling card. But 11 percent are from Adelphia, 10 percent are from Comcast and 7 percent are from Verizon. Shentel, one of our local providers, checks in at 5 percent. We also get about 1 percent of our hits from the U.S. House and Senate each, the White House, the odd defense contractor and sundry folks in Capitol Square in Richmond.

What does all this mean? Not much, but I'm a geek with an hour or so to kill.

Full Story...

Primary Day

The polls have been open now for eight hours, and based on the reports trickling in to Daily Political HQ here in Strasburg, turn out is light. Unless you happen to live next door to the two Democratic candidates — former IT lobbyist Harris Miller or former Secretary of the Navy James Webb.

An uneasy quiet has fallen over both campaigns, at least from a media perspective. This reporter has had a hard time using iTunes for the past 10 days — the music kept getting interrupted with the chime of incoming e-mail from either Camp Webb or Camp Miller.

Now, operatives are at polling places, making last minute phone calls and handing out literature, as the candidates themselves press the flesh. No more mass communicatin' this go round ... they're one-at-a-timin' it now, as a Coen brothers character might say.

Meanwhile here in Strasburg, the Dr. Enuf is on ice, the T-1 line has been checked and re-checked and the political junkies are twitching.

And the clock ticks.

Full Story...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Raw Data: Bolling says 'no justification' for execution delay

From the Lt. Gov.'s press office...

Lieutenant Governor Bolling Disagrees With Governor Kaine’s Decision To Defer Execution

RICHMOND – Last night, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine announced his decision to defer the scheduled execution of Percy Walton. Walton was convicted in the 1996 murder of three individuals in Danville.

The Governor announced that he had decided to defer Walton’s execution so he could conduct an “independent assessment” of whether or not he was mentally competent. In response to the Governor’s announcement, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling issued the following statement:

“I disagree with the Governor’s decision to defer this execution. Mr. Walton was duly convicted in a Virginia court of the brutal murder of three innocent people in Danville in 1996. He shot one individual in the head and stuffed his lifeless body in a closet. He shot another as she begged for her life."

"A jury found Mr. Walton guilty of these crimes and properly sentenced him to death.”

“There is no justification for the Governor’s decision to defer Mr. Walton’s execution. Mr. Walton’s lawyers have argued for years that he was mentally incompetent, but this argument has consistently been rejected by the courts."

"The courts have found that Mr. Walton can and should be executed because he clearly knew what he was doing when he committed these crimes.”

“Interestingly, the United States Supreme Court rejected these very appeals moments before the Governor chose to defer Mr. Walton’s execution. The courts have considered this case in detail. They found Mr. Walton guilty of these brutal murders, they sentenced him to death, and they have affirmed their finding on numerous occasions.”

“I am also concerned that the Governor has indicated that he will embark on an independent 'extra judicial' assessment of whether or not Mr. Walton is mentally competent. "

"Unfortunately, the Governor has not told us how this independent assessment will be conducted, what standards will be used for reaching a conclusion, or what steps will be taken to protect the rights of the victims families or the Commonwealth.”

“We should rely on the judicial process to make determinations of this nature, and the courts have clearly and correctly made those determinations in this case.”


Full Story...

State attorney general urges legislators to enact budget; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Virginia legislators have a choice: Approve a budget or instigate a constitutional crisis.

That was the message Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell delivered to his GOP colleagues in the General Assembly on Thursday.

Acting on a request from the legislature, McDonnell opined that no state funds could be spent without a budget. The Republican-led House of Delegates and Senate are still at odds over a spending plan with only days remaining in the current two-year budget.

Kaine had said that he would keep key government services running until someone, such as a judge or the General Assembly, told him to stop.

One branch of government simply can’t hobble another by failing to act, Kaine said this week.

But McDonnell’s opinion precludes any spending decisions by the executive in the absence of a budget.

“While the Governor does have certain implied executive power, such implied authority cannot overcome the sole and specific express grant of spending authority to the legislature,” McDonnell wrote in his opinion.

But the opinion is “more about what the General Assembly must do, not what the governor can’t do,” McDonnell said on a conference call with re-porters.

Legislators have to act quickly to either approve a full budget or some kind of stopgap measure.

“There is an absolute and solemn duty [on the part of legislators] to appropriate funds,” McDonnell said. “There are only two choices for the General Assembly.”

And the time to do so is short. Getting all the legislative ducks in a row will take at least a week, giving members a maximum of 10 days to do a deal and ship it off to the governor.

Kaine could declare an emergency and issue orders to keep some services running, but he couldn’t issue checks out of the state treasury without the legislature’s consent, the attorney general said.

“The Attorney General and I are unified in our desire that the General Assembly meet its responsibility to complete a budget before the end of the fiscal year,” Kaine said in a written statement issued later.

“I commend the Attorney General for his efforts to help secure a budget bill, which is a fundamental legislative obligation,” he said.

The opinion is in line with historic precedent, according to one local delegate.

“Virginia has always been a legislature-driven state,” said Del. Clay Athey, R-Front Royal. “The notion behind the commonwealth is that it’s driven behind the legislature.”

Hardly anyone was more shocked that the situation has reached this point than the rank-and-file GOP, said Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg. Legislators came to Richmond expecting to end the impasse.

“Suffice it to say that … [he and other legislators] expected there to be a budget to be voted on that very day,” he said. “There couldn’t have been a bigger surprise to us.”

The disagreement over in-cluding any transportation funding increases in the budget is new, but is symptomatic of the overall situation, Athey said.

Senators have been in a “tactical retreat for some period of time,” he said. The public doesn’t support tax increases when there’s a multi-billion-dollar surplus on the table.

House Republicans want to see the surplus funds dedicated to transportation, rather than being spent on other items.

But it’s not worth forcing a government shutdown, Athey said.

“However, the commonwealth of Virginia needs a budget,” he said. “Somebody’s got to be an adult in this situation.”

“[House and Senate negotiators] were in pretty good agreement on most things,” he said. “I still believe that we will wind up with a budget in sufficient time. I’ll be very, very surprised if we end up with a constitutional crisis.”

“Virginia has been around for around 400 years, and to my knowledge we’ve never defaulted on a budget,” May said. “We’ve never shirked our duty.”

Full Story...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Raw Data: McDonnell Statement on Execution Delay

From McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin...

“The Office of the Attorney General represents the Commonwealth in all post-sentencing litigation involving death row inmates. We believe that all the court rulings finding Percy Walton guilty of the brutal murders of three people, and competent to receive the penalty he was given, are correct and should stand."

"However, the Constitution clearly bestows on the Governor the authority to grant a reprieve of death sentences in capital cases. We accept the right of the Governor to exercise his authority in this case. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”

Full Story...

Raw Data: Kaine Postpones Execution

From the governor's press office...

June 8, 2006

~ On the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton ~

RICHMOND - Governor Timothy M. Kaine issued the following statement on the scheduled execution of Percy Levar Walton by the Commonwealth of Virginia:

"Percy Levar Walton was convicted of the murders of Jessie E. Kendrick, Elizabeth W. Kendrick, and Archie D. Moore, Jr. between November 19 and 28, 1996. He killed these three innocent people in their homes - where people should feel most secure from acts
of violence. Mr. Walton admitted that he committed these horrific crimes and, after pleading guilty, was sentenced to death.

"Given the nature of these crimes, I have no reason to question the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty or the judge's decision that death was an appropriate sentence. In addition to the death sentence, Walton was sentenced to life sentences for each of three robbery convictions, ten years for burglary, and three years for each of six firearms convictions.

"State and federal courts have consistently upheld Walton's convictions. However, courts considering his death sentence have struggled with the question of whether his mental capacity imposes a bar to his execution.

"It is unconstitutional to execute a person who is mentally incompetent. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a person must have sufficient mental capacity to understand the punishment he is about to suffer, and why he is to suffer it."

"A few days before Walton's scheduled execution date of May 28, 2003, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia granted Walton a stay of execution in order to determine Walton's mental competence. "

In July 2003, following extensive submission of evidence about Walton's mental state from 1997 through 2003, the court ruled that he was competent to be executed. A three-judge panel of appellate judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the lower court ruling, directing a broader inquiry into Walton's mental state. Before that inquiry took place, the entire court reconsidered the panel's decision in an en banc review. The en banc Court found Walton competent to be executed by a narrow 7-6 majority."

"In issuing its ruling, the Fourth Circuit properly limited its consideration to the evidence before it regarding Walton's mental state as of 2003. However, three years have passed since the evidence was presented. "

"Walton's clemency petition presents significant information suggesting that he has schizophrenia, that such a mental illness can cause serious deterioration of mental competence, and that there is more than a minimal chance that Walton no longer knows why he is to be executed or is even aware of the punishment he is about to receive. "

"Due to the history of judicial concern about his mental status, the claims in Walton's clemency petition are entitled to serious consideration."

"In order to comply with the law forbidding execution of a mentally incompetent person and to insure just application of Virginia's capital punishment statute, it is important to have current and independent information about Walton's mental condition. "

"It would be imprudent to either proceed with the execution or grant clemency without further

"Therefore, I have decided to delay Walton's execution date until December 8, 2006, for the purpose of conducting an independent evaluation of his mental condition and competence, on terms and conditions prescribed by this office."
# # #

Full Story...

Raw Data: Kaine responds to McDonnell

From the governor's press office...

~ On the advisory opinion of the Attorney General ~

RICHMOND – Governor Timothy M. Kaine issued the following statement today upon the release of an advisory opinion by the Office of the Attorney General:

“The Attorney General and I are unified in our desire that the General Assembly meet its responsibility to complete a budget before the end of the fiscal year. I commend the Attorney General for his efforts to help secure a budget bill, which is a fundamental legislative obligation.

“While I remain hopeful and insistent that a budget deal will emerge in the coming days, it is important for the citizens of Virginia know that they can continue to rely on the government services they expect, in any circumstance. Today marks the 149th day since the start of the regular legislative session and 74 days since the start of a special session that was meant to result in a budget. There are only 22 days remaining in this fiscal year. The General Assembly still has time to pass a budget, but they must act very quickly.

“In the meantime, I will take such executive steps as are necessary during the remainder of June in order to meet government commitments in the new fiscal year.

“Although there has been some discussion of temporary authorization bills to extend spending power beyond June 30, I believe there should instead be a focused and concerted effort to pass a budget bill in the next few days.

“On May 23, the Senate made a fundamental compromise in response to a demand by the House leadership to separate transportation and tax increases from the budget. The House should now move promptly to work with the Senate on a budget that takes care of the non-transportation needs of the Commonwealth.

“The House asked that the transportation crisis be addressed after the budget was resolved. At this point, that is how the General Assembly should proceed. There should then be no further obstacles to steadfast, good-faith negotiations to reach a budget deal.

“As we draw closer to the June 30 fiscal year end without a budget, I remain resolved to carry out our laws, ensuring the continuity of the government services Virginians rely on.

“Article V of Virginia’s constitution states that the Governor shall faithfully execute the laws. I intend to carry out my oath of office to uphold this constitutional obligation.

“In the coming days, my office will continue to work closely with members of the legislature, the Attorney General, my cabinet, state agency leaders, and local government officials to ensure the safety and welfare of Virginians in the event this uncertainty regarding the budget continues.”

Full Story...

McDonnell: Governor can't spend without budget

Attorney General Bob McDonnell has issued an official opinion today, in which he says that the governor has no authority to spend money without legislative action. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has said he "won't let Virginians suffer" and will take action to keep core government functions operating if the legislature can't agree on a budget by June 30.

The following is the text of a news release from the AG's office:

Official Opinion of Attorney General Bob McDonnell on the 2006 Budget

Key Sections

The following sections are excerpted from today’s formal opinion of the Attorney General on the issue of authority to appropriate funds in the Commonwealth. You have also received the full opinion. [Which will be posted here as soon as I can upload the file--GS]

……It is my opinion that when an emergency exists, the Constitution does not expressly grant to the Governor authority to expend state funds when there are no existing appropriations made by law.

While the Governor does have certain implied executive power, such implied authority cannot overcome the sole and specific express grant of spending authority to the legislature. Thus, in order to prevent an unprecedented constitutional crisis, it is critical that the legislature immediately enact a 2006-2008 biennial budget or, in the alternative, enact short-term legislation authorizing ongoing spending for state services and obligations.

……The pragmatic interpretation would be to sanction a governor’s intention to act unilaterally upon the failure of the legislature to pass a budget to forestall a disastrous government shutdown. However, longstanding rules of statutory construction to resolve conflicts in laws do not permit such an interpretation. Such rules dictate that the specific law controls over the general. Thus, the implied plenary authority of the Governor to faithfully execute the laws does not overcome the specific, clear, and exclusive grant of authority to the legislature to make appropriations by law.

…..A budget crisis of this nature, with the looming possibility of appropriations directed by the executive branch independent of the legislature, is the result of a failure of legislative duty not contemplated by the drafters of the Constitution or previous legislatures

……It is not unreasonable to argue that Virginia’s founders would not have intended that the entire executive branch be thwarted by legislative inaction. However, the conundrum arises from the Constitution’s silence on this issue. The Attorney General must interpret not what the Constitution ought to say, but rather what it does say.

…..The Governor historically has exercised certain extraordinary spending authority in times of emergency, but the General Assembly contemplates and generally provides for such expenditures in the budget bill. The present situation is distinguishable since in the absence of immediate action by the General Assembly, there will be no enacted budget bill on which the Governor may rely for guidance or general authorization to spend. The Virginia Constitution is quite clear that “appropriations [are] made by law.”

Although the Governor may and should exercise certain powers to protect public health, safety, and welfare, I find no express or implied provision of the Constitution that suggests the Governor may order spending by executive order when there is no general legislative authority.

It is my opinion that the citizens of Virginia who ratified the Constitution believed the legislature would, without fail, appropriate funds for public health, safety, welfare, education, and other basic governmental functions required by constitution or statute. The Virginia Supreme Court has determined that the General Assembly has the duty to do so.

Thus, while the Governor may not authorize spending independently, the General Assembly has the constitutional obligation to appropriate revenues and cannot choose by inaction to abdicate its responsibility without risking unprecedented usurpation of legislative authority, lasting diminution in stature for the legislative branch, and extraordinary proceedings in the courts…….

Full Story...

Candidates piling up cash for races; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The general election isn’t until November, but the two candidates seeking Virginia’s 10th District seat in the House of Representatives are piling up cash.

Incumbent Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Vienna, is seeking his 14th term in Congress. He’s challenged by Democrat Judy Feder, the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

Neither candidate has broken the $1 million mark yet, but Wolf is almost in that neighborhood, with more than $700,000 in contributions during this cycle.

Feder has raked in $356,601 in individual contributions during this election cycle, and an additional $21,000 from political action committees.

She’s kicked in an additional $8,000 of her own money as of May 24.

Wolf maintains a substantial cash lead, more than $237,000, along with the overall fundraising advantage. But the two campaigns have been getting their cash from very different sources.

More than $280,000 of Wolf’s money comes from PACs, a key weapon in any federal incumbent’s finance arsenal.

Individual contributions show that there’s support for change in Congress, according to the challenger.

“The continued enthusiasm for my campaign shows that people want change,” Feder said in an e-mail to reporters. “They’re not satisfied with congressmen like Frank Wolf who vote for the President’s agenda 90 percent of the time.”

The Wolf campaign didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

But the 10th District isn’t the only federal race voters will be deciding this year. U.S. Sen. George Allen, the former Republican governor, is seeking a second six-year term of office.
Allen has no primary challenger, but two Democrats are fighting it out to see who will move on to November.

Former technology lobbyist Harris N. Miller, of Fairfax County, is well past the $1.2 million mark on $554,000 in individual contributions and $6,750 from PACs.

The major of Miller’s funding though has come from an old-fashioned source — his own pocket. As of the reporting deadline, Miller had given $675,000 of his own money toward his campaign.

His opponent, Republican-turned-Democrat James H. Webb, a Gate City native and former Reagan administration secretary of the Navy, has banked about $548,000 in total, including a $100,000 loan.

Webb reported more than $412,000 in individual contributions along with $34,700 from PACs.

At the bottom line, Miller held a $570,000 cash advantage over Webb with less than a month to go until the primary.

The winner of Tuesday’s contest will take on Allen, who has banked more than $9.5 million in this election cycle, and had more than $7.5 million on hand at the reporting deadline.

Allen’s effort was organized from the start to run against a “wealth, self-funded” Democrat — fellow Virginia ex-Gov. Mark R. Warner.

But Warner surprised political watchers last year by announcing that he wouldn’t take another shot at the U.S. Senate, fueling speculation that Allen has actually been preparing for a presidential run in 2008.

Warner, who made millions in the cell phone business, ran the “Mark, not John” campaign against Republican Sen. John Warner in 2000, but came up short before his successful gubernatorial run.

Primary Day is Tuesday. The General Election is Nov. 7.

Full Story...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

McDonnell sets 10 a.m. press conference

Attorney General Bob McDonnell's office announced tonight that he'll be holding a "very important" press conference regarding the state budget situation tomorrow at 10 a.m. "Several announcements will be made," according to spokesman Tucker Martin.

Interesting... we shall see.

Full Story...

Wolf: Change federal fiscal policy before nation bankrupt; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

The federal government’s fiscal policy is badly broken and must be changed soon or the nation faces bankruptcy, a local congressman said Tuesday.

During a Capitol Hill press conference, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, whose district includes Winchester, Frederick and Clarke counties, called for creating an expert panel to produce a solution for Congress to vote on.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are broken and will bankrupt the country in the near future unless something is done, Wolf said.

“To meet the government’s current unfunded promises for future spending, every American — including multimillionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — would have to hand over 90 percent of their personal net worth in today’s dollars,” Wolf said. “This is unacceptable.”

When members of the baby boom generation born after World War II begin to retire en masse in a few years, the system will simply break, he said.

“As we tragically learned in New Orleans, the best time to deal with a damaged flood wall is before the rains begin,” Wolf said. “Make no mistake, the levees that are our country’s entitlement systems are in need of repair and must be fixed.”

Wolf’s answer to the program is the “SAFE Commission” designed to “secure America’s future economy.” The 15-member panel would hold public hearings, take expert testimony and produce a package of fiscal reforms that would either have to be approved or rejected by Congress.

By the time a baby born in 2006 retires, 88 percent of all income taxes will be used to pay for retired boomers.

“Not only is this unacceptable, it raises serious moral questions,” Wolf said. “Is it right for one generation to live very well knowing that its debts will be left to be paid for by their children and grandchildren?”

Spending has reached the point that, without billions of dollars in foreign investment flowing into the economy every day, the government would not be able to meet its obligations.

Democrat Judy Feder, who is challenging Wolf for his congressional seat in the Nov. 7 General Election, dismissed the proposal Tuesday, claiming the incumbent bears responsibility for the very fiscal crisis he cited.

“I’m glad to see that Frank Wolf has finally realized that the unwise fiscal policies he has supported have caused serious problems,” Feder said in a statement posted on her campaign Web site.

“But if Frank Wolf wanted to protect Social Security and Medicare, he should have had the backbone to stand up to George Bush instead of voting for the President’s agenda 90 percent of the time,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot more than a commission for Frank Wolf to fix a mess he helped create.”

Wolf said the magnitude of the coming crisis is such that “everything must be on the table,” including tax increases.

“As a fiscal conservative, I believe that the economy grows when people keep more of their hard-earned money, and my voting record reflects this belief,” he said.

Any tax increases should be part of a larger overhaul of the tax code, he said.
If the House of Representatives and Senate agree to the commission, the bipartisan pan-el would spend six months holding “town hall” meetings in at least 12 locations across the country.

Two months later, the commission would send Congress a reform package that could only be voted up or down, not amended, and which must be acted on within 15 legislative days.
But the legislation leaves room for other ideas.

“My legislation does provide an opportunity for the administration and Congress to submit alternative proposals, which would not be amendable,” Wolf said.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Kaine: 'I'm not going to let Virginians suffer"

UPDATED with Attorney General Bob McDonnell's response--scroll down

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Tuesday that he "wouldn't let legislative inaction" hobble state government, and would act to keep the state's government operating past July 1, even if the state doesn't have a budget.

Speaking with dozens of reporters via teleconference from Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., Kaine said he was optimistic that the warring House of Delegates and Senate could come to terms on a budget before the end of the week.

But he's prepared to act if they don't.

"I have looked with my team in a very searching way at the Constitution of Virginia, hoping that the exercise would be purely an academic one," he said. "But I took an oath, and the oath was that I would faithfully execute the laws of the commonwealth, and I'm going to."

The three branches of Virginia's government are co-equal, he said, and no one branch has the power to hobble the other two by inaction — the end result an automatic and complete government shutdown if there's no budget.

Kaine said he wouldn't let prisoners be released because guards can't be paid and wouldn't let state hospitals stop treatments because no funds were authorized to pay for medications.

"It is the antithesis of our constitutional form of government that the legislature, by inaction, could essentially destroy the judicial and executive branches. That is what some legislators seem to contemplate.

Kaine declined to comment further, but said he'd roll out a plan for what would and what wouldn't keep running if the impasse drags on.

"I am fully expecting that this period of inaction and delay will finish," he said. "But I am very resolute., that if for some reason it doesn't finish, and there continues to be squabbling and no action by the legislature on the budget, then I am very focused on making sure that I do faithfully execute the laws and legal obligations and the expectations that Virginians have of their governor."


From McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin:

“Both Attorney General Bob McDonnell and Governor Kaine recognize how absolutely imperative it is that the legislature pass a budget immediately," Martin said.

"The Constitution of Virginia makes it clear that it is the obligation of the legislature to appropriate funds. The failure to pass a budget would result in an unprecedented constitutional crisis, one that all parties should want to avoid. As the chief lawyer of the Commonwealth, the Attorney General is working with all parties as they seek to understand the legal and constitutional issues at hand.”

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Special Session: Caboose Antics

The House of Delegates and Senate are back in session today, once again doing the Capitol Square Samba over the budget. But today, we're back to the Caboose Bill, the catch-all document that wraps up the 2004-2006 budget that expires at the end of the month.

It's hard to say just where this is going, but both chambers have been meeting, approving memorial resolutions and recessing to talk the situation over.

Gov. Tim Kaine, D, has scheduled a conference call with reporters for 3:15 p.m. Updates as the situation warrants.

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More budget talks set for today; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

RICHMOND — Efforts to end Virginia’s unprecedented budget deadlock have stalled yet again, but negotiators are set to return to the conference table today.

The Senate and House of Delegates started meeting in January, but have yet to come up with a state budget. The new fiscal year begins on July 1 and a new budget must be in place by then to avoid at least a partial government shutdown.

Both sides continued to fire curt letters back and forth across the General Assembly Building — the preferred method of communication throughout the dispute — again Monday.

Friday’s negotiations, originally scheduled to go through the weekend, ran into trouble after delegates introduced a proposal to include $800 million for transportation in this year’s budget.

Transportation has been the major sticking point in negotiations throughout both sessions.

Senators originally wanted to include more than $1 billion in tax increases for transportation in the budget document but backed off after the House caucus held fast. In 2004, the Senate peeled off enough Republicans to push through more than $1.5 billion in tax increases.

Delegates offered their own plan — a nearly $1.03 billion fund for roads over the next two years, with talks to come later on where the money would come from.

But the Senate stripped transportation out of its budget and approved a spending plan that reflects former Gov. Mark R. Warner’s last proposal, made just weeks before his term ended.

Senators returned the latest House proposal without comment, according to Del. Vince Callahan, R-McLean, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“Shortly thereafter, they came to my office and said that transportation was non-negotiable and that by injecting it into the discussion the House wanted to shut down government,” Callahan wrote in a letter to the House GOP caucus.

House leaders have always maintained that they want a transportation reserve fund to be part of the negotiations, he wrote.

But what the House wanted, the House got, wrote Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. John H. Chichester, R-Fredericksburg.

“Transportation is not and will not be in our agreed-upon agenda,” Chichester wrote in a letter to Callahan on Monday. “The House has made it abundantly clear that it believes the budget should be resolved first and then, and only then, should transportation be addressed.”

A deal was within striking distance before delegates brought transportation back to the table, according to Scott Leake, executive director of the Virginia Senate Republican Leadership Trust.

The two sides had “slogged” through the capital expenditures budget and had their bottom lines less than 4 percent apart.

But the onus remains on the Senate to come back to the table, according to House Majority Leader Del. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.

“The Senate walked out,” Griffith said. “You can’t do anything unless you’re meeting.”

Sources on both sides of the negotiations have said the two groups will return to the conference table an hour after the session concludes today.

As for the agenda in today’s session, the main item of discussion was set to be Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s changes and line-item vetoes in House Bill 5012, the 2004-2006 “caboose bill.”

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, said via e-mail that as of Monday evening, plans called for the session to address Kaine’s veto of a $4.5 million funding cut for the Virginia Performing Arts foundation.

That’s not to say there won’t be some discussion of the budget situation on the floor of both chambers.

“Obviously we’ll be getting some updates from our conferees,” Griffith said.
R Contact Garren Shipley at

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Raw Data: Chichester's Letter to Callahan

June 5, 2006

The Honorable Vincent F. Callahan, Jr.
Chairman, House Appropriations Committee
General Assembly Building, Ninth Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Dear Vince:

I have received your letter of June 5, 2006, and propose that our conferees should meet tomorrow one hour after adjournment.

As you will recall, our negotiations on the 2006-08 biennial budget broke off on Friday just as we were approaching agreement on the capital outlay plan when the House conferees injected transportation into the discussion. At the request of the House leadership, we had agreed that transportation would be resolved at a later date, and the Senate will honor that commitment.

The definition of good-faith negotiations is staying within the parameters of previously-agreed upon or understood agendas. Transportation is not and will not be in our agreed-upon agenda. The House has made it abundantly clear that it believes the budget should be resolved first and then, and only then, should transportation be addressed.

Regarding the constitutionality of the tax proposals in the Senate budget, I must remind you that the inclusion of new transportation revenues in Part V of the Senate budget was approved by the President of the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor, in his ruling on this question during the 2006 regular session. Indeed, in the 2004 session tax increases were included in the state budget in a similar fashion, and this step was not challenged by the House.

The Honorable Vincent F. Callahan, Jr.
June 5, 2006
Page Two

In fact, Vince, shortly thereafter you mailed a fundraising letter extolling the accomplishments which were made possible by these very tax increases that were included in the 2004 Special Session. Specifically, in your fund-raising letter of July 21, 2004, you took credit for raising $1.5 billion of increased funding for Kindergarten through 12th grade education, and $600 million to ensure Virginia’s system of higher education remains one of the best in the nation. If you can take credit for the tax increases in 2004 which were made possible by stand-alone legislation as well as by inclusion of those measures in the budget two years ago, surely you cannot believe that such actions are unconstitutional in 2006.

Nevertheless, I too am anxious to get about the business of resolving our differences in the budget, and you can play a large role in that process by not inserting items that your leadership has stated they want to be addressed only after the budget is concluded.

We stand ready to work with you and the other House conferees to resolve our differences.


John H. Chichester

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Raw Data: Callahan's Memo to House

June 2, 2006


TO: Member, House of Delegates

FROM: Vincent F. Callahan, Jr.

SUBJECT: House Bill 5002 as amended

I regret to inform you that today about 2:00 p.m. our Senate colleagues stormed out of budget negotiations and left Richmond. The apparent reason for their action was the House conferees’ insistence that the dollar figure for transportation must be subject to negotiation and the transportation language amendment must be clarified. This action was especially shocking in view of the fact that your House conferees, at our very first meeting with the Senators, stressed that these items must be considered early in negotiations.

Just moments after receiving the latest House proposal, which included a transportation component, the Senate conferees returned our proposal through a staff member and without comment. Shortly thereafter, they came to my office and said that transportation was non-negotiable and that by injecting it into the discussion the House wanted to shut down government. When the House conferees reiterated that transportation always had been a top priority of the House and a topic of negotiation (as indicated by two previous letters sent to the Senate conferees), one of them dismissively said, “Call us next Wednesday if you’re ready to negotiate” and left the General Assembly Building.

The House conferees previously had made clear their intention to work through the entire weekend with a view toward completing the negotiations prior to Tuesday June 6th. Today’s actions by the Senate conferees has halted all discussions on the budget unless we agree to their transportation funding level and the language stipulating that even this level of funding will not flow to transportation unless a statewide tax increase is approved by November 1st.

As the week began, the Senate put forward a request to begin our discussions on capital construction needs for state agencies and higher education institutions. We agreed to their request recognizing that the two largest areas that separated our budgets was the amount to spend on capital construction and the amount to be included in the transportation reserve fund.

At the request of the Senate and in consideration of their agreeing to remove the tax increases from the budget, the House conferees also agreed to develop a capital budget package that used all cash and no debt. In doing so our approach to capital was guided by the following: First, we would use cash to pay for capital projects. Second, we would give priority to projects that had been previously vetted. Third, that we would not provide funding to plan, design or conduct architectural and engineering studies for projects without a commitment to fully fund them in the future.

Over the last several days, the House conferees have proposed a capital program compromise including over $930 million which focuses funding on projects that will have an immediate impact on core services in higher education, public safety and mental health. Our capital package also would provide some limited pre-planning for three additional mental health projects. Our proposed construction and planning package represents an increase of nearly $300 million in cash from our original capital proposal contained in House Bill 5002.

I think our package is a responsible compromise and accedes to most of the key objectives of our Senate colleagues. We still differ with the Senate’s insistence on spending over $34 million in planning rather than on construction of needed projects ready to build. A major item remaining in the Senate’s proposed planning is $12.5 million for new executive office buildings with a construction value of nearly $200 million. To us this represents a misplaced priority given the needs in transportation, higher education, and mental health. Even so, and as expressed by one Senate conferee, we were only inches apart on capital.

Clearly, we can settle our differences on capital. However, to finalize the level of capital spending, we also must determine the level of funding to be set aside in a transportation reserve fund. This reserve fund is part of the budget and is intended to serve as part of the future discussions on transportation.

You may remember that our original budget proposal set aside $1,030 million in the transportation reserve fund. The Senate’s proposal of $568 million was less than the amount proposed by Governor Kaine. In fact, the figure failed to keep the General Assembly’s legally stipulated commitment to pay the $74.8 million in biennial FRAN debt service payments.

Additionally, the Senate proposal did not include the one-third of the insurance premium tax as stipulated by law. Finally, despite the nearly $200 million in additional revenue adjustments included in their budget – over and above that recommended by the Governor – their budget does not dedicate any more surplus revenues to transportation than did the budget introduced by Governor Warner.

It has been our position from the beginning that as with any item in conference, the exact dollar amount and accompanying language for a transportation reserve fund would reflect a compromise that satisfies the objectives sought by both bodies. In keeping with this approach, we proposed a transportation reserve fund figure of $800 million. Apparently the Senate conferees believe that any figure above that contained in their original proposal is non-negotiable. Your conferees believe otherwise.

Despite the actions of the Senate conferees this afternoon all House conferees stand ready to resume negotiations immediately and resolve the budget.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Late state budget not a worry at local level; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia’s current budget runs out in 29 days. Legislators are negotiating, trying to beat the clock and keep the state’s government open.

But in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, local governments are taking it in stride.

It would be great to have a state budget so local governments could plan on their own budgets for the year, said Shenandoah County Administrator Vince Poling. But no one is terribly concerned just yet.

“We’re starting to get used to it,” he said. “The first couple of times [the state budget was late], we got real excited. But we haven’t gotten too excited yet, now.”

“We’ve been here before and done that,” added Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley. “If you call me on July 15 and we don’t have a budget, there may be a different tune.”

Legislators couldn’t hammer out a budget by the March 11 deadline and were forced to go into special session.

Senators relented last week and removed a $1 billion-plus per year tax hike to pay for transportation improvements from their version of the budget, clearing the way for negotiations with the House of Delegates on the basic spending plan with transportation issues to be handled later.

Despite optimism on both sides, the two chambers are still haggling over capital projects to be included in the budget, among other issues.

A testy exchange of letters, a favored method of communication between the two bodies during the session, continued Thursday.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Vince Callahan, R-McLean, took the Senate to task for its position on expansion of the state’s community college system.

“The House proposal fully and immediately funds five academic buildings at five of our fastest growing community colleges located in Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Richmond metropolitan area and the Shenandoah Valley,” he wrote. “By contrast, the Senate proposal provides no new facilities, only planning without any commitment to the actual construction.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Chichester, R-Fredericksburg, fired back his own letter before the day was out.

“Our commitment to the community college system is un-paralleled,” he wrote. “But as with mental health, the operative word is system. Our thoughtful, methodical approach lets us address statewide capacity. We need to rise above parochial and conferee interests and do what is best for the system as a whole.”

Both sides say they’re aiming to wrap up their work in the coming seven days.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine last week authorized the state to spend $122.3 million to cover the state’s payroll for time worked between June 10 and June 24, and moved the state’s payday up from July 3 to June 30 — just in case.

Even if the state did hit June 30 without a budget, the situation won’t become dire until late summer, according to local government officials.

“I don’t think that’ll happen, because state government functions would cease,” Poling said. “The way the money flows from the state to the county, it’s not like we get what they owe us the first day of the month.”

For places like Winchester, contingencies include making up missing state money for the school system out of fund balances.

“It’s much more [of] concern toward August and September,” said Winchester City Manager Ed Daley. “It’s not a good position, it doesn’t make it anything to overreact to, though.”

And if things go south, there’s always one last resort.

“We could ask West Virginia to annex us, I guess,” Poling joked. “At least they can adopt a budget.”

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