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