Tuesday, May 23, 2006 :::
It appears the Senate has blinked on the budget, removing the tax increases it originally proposed for transportation, but including a provision requiring a steady stream of transportation revenue by the beginning of November before surplus monies can be used for various projects. A poison pill? Perhaps. But now, the weight of crafting a compromise falls squarely on the House.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Bill Howell's leadership has been tested greatly during this stand-off. He has earned passing marks so far, but in many ways, breaking the Senate may have been the easiest part -- recall that Chichester's initial transportation tax plan never really had the broad and deep support that his 2004 efforts enjoyed, the threat of a bond downgrade never materialized, and that Tim Kaine is no Mark Warner.
Now, it's up to the negotiators and, ultimately, the GOP caucus to make their budgetary choices. So far, they are putting a good face on their prospects:
We are closer today to reaching a budget agreement than we have been at any time this year. Transportation, however, will remain a critical issue, regardless of what shape the final budget agreement ultimately takes. The House remains committed to continuing the current special session after the completion of our work on the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget, so that we may begin deliberations on the various transportation initiatives already proposed, as well as consider those that have yet to be brought forward. On February 10 of this year, the House proposed a comprehensive, three-pronged program to address transportation. Although the Senate'?s version of the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget does not include the House'?s plan in its entirety, House Republicans remain committed to meeting Virginia's transportation challenges. The continuation of the current special session will give us the ability to explore a wide-range of options, including those that eschew the easy, reflexive, and too-often-utilized route of increasing taxes.
True. But now it's the House's turn to lead -- to take the opening they've been given and do something bold. Otherwise, there is the very real possibility this could become their "Spruce Goose" moment.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 5/23/2006