OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Saturday, May 06, 2006 :::

An Email Exchange

From the Speaker's office comes an exchange of letters and emails between the House and Senate conferees on the budget. First up, a note from the Senate Leadership Trust's J. Scott Leake:

From: J Scott Leake
05/05/2006 03:54 PM
Please respond to

Re: Subject Challenge for the House of Delegates

Senate Conferees Ask House to Act
May 5, 2006

As you know the House of Delegates sidestepped another opportunity to take action on the transportation and budget issues this week when its Finance Committee sent the latest Senate proposal into legislative limbo. Accordingly, the Senate conferees have sent a letter to Chairman Callahan asking "when will the House act?"

Text of Letter
Dear Vince: The people of Virginia deserve better treatment than they have received from the House of Delegates in recent days. Refusing to act on our transportation package is the latest example.

This Special Session was called to deal with both the budget and transportation. The Senate has been hard at work on the subcommittee and full committee levels. We have brought forth proposals for debate and passage on the floor of the Senate. However, that is where the progress stops.

We sent you a budget on April 19th, but your committee has not met to consider it. You asked for transportation measures divorced from the budget and we complied. We sent them to the House where they now languish with no votes to approve, reject, or amend. House action to delay consideration of the bills for 90 days telegraphs your desire to extend the Special Session into the late summer and fall, wasting taxpayer dollars.

Virginians expect progress, not procrastination. We all know how the system is supposed to work. However, the House’s refusal to do its job frustrates the procedure.

We have said repeatedly, if you do not like our transportation plans, send us yours. It has been 53 days since we entered this Special Session. So far, not a single piece of stand-alone legislation has been introduced to deal with transportation in the House.

It is not just our legislation that is being ignored. The needs of our citizens are being ignored. When will the House act?

The above letter came from Sen. Chichester and the other Senate conferees. The text probably speaks for itself. However, if you want anyone to explicate the meanings of "ignore," "refusal," "languish," or "procrastination," my cell phone [(804) XXX-XXXX] battery is charged.


I removed Leake's contact information, otherwise, this is what he sent to folks in the press. The tone is, well, pissy. And it was sufficiently over-the-top to garner the following response from Vince Callahan:

The Honorable John H. Chichester, Chairman
Senate Finance Committee
Room 626, General Assembly Building

Dear John:

Considering the progress negotiators on behalf of the House and Senate have made in recent days on resolving our differences over amendments to the 2004-2006 Biennial Budget, I was surprised at the tone of your letter that I received this afternoon. Since some of the statements you made in the letter fail to adhere to the facts, I feel compelled to respond.

First, transportation is an important issue that must be addressed. It is an issue, however, that does not supersede the need to pass a state budget for the Commonwealth of Virginia. While the Senate holds out for a billion-dollar-a-year-tax increase, its extortion tactic is holding the rest of the budget hostage. It is for these very reasons that the House budget includes a Transportation Program Reserve Fund to ensure that this important core service of government is addressed – once a budget agreement is adopted.

Second, the House did not fail to act on the Senate’s $1.8 billion package of tax increases, the most recently adopted of your multiple transportation plans. The House Finance Committee chose to table your proposals until August 1 so that we could complete our work on the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget unencumbered by the unconstitutionally embedded tax increases you had heretofore insisted upon. This decision was entirely consistent with the current House proposal, contained in House Bill 5002, to complete work on the budget now and return shortly thereafter to address transportation. It uses the same procedures employed by Governors Godwin, Baliles, Allen, and Gilmore, when they sought to enact complex changes to address challenging issues.

It is true that the Senate has, as you stated, “…brought forth proposals for debate and passage on the floor of the Senate.” However, in developing so many different proposals to address transportation, and by increasing its previous $1 billion tax increase proposal to $1.8 billion, the actions of the Senate have only reconfirmed the wisdom of the House’s position in advocating these matters be dealt with separately during the special session – after the completion of the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget.

Third, although the Senate has been busy altering its previous tax increase proposals, it has failed to act on the legislation sent to it by the House. As you know, House Bill 5002, the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget, remains in the Senate Finance Committee, having received no action since it was sent to you on April 12. The Senate’s refusal to negotiate a resolution on the next biennial state budget prevents all state agencies – including colleges and universities, prisons, mental health hospitals, local governments and public schools – from knowing what financial support they will receive from the state beginning July 1, 2006. Further, the Senate has failed to take any action on House Bill 5003, the “caboose” bill, since it was forwarded to you on April 19. These delays have caused the House to question your commitment to completing a budget prior to July 1.

Fourth, I also found your reference to the Appropriations Committee actions on Senate Bill 5002 to be disappointingly disingenuous. This legislation has been dealt with in exactly the same manner as was its predecessor, Senate Bill 30, during the regular session. Indeed, it was dealt with in the same manner as every similar piece of legislation that the Senate has sent to the House since the Senate Finance Committee was first permitted to prepare its own budget only a generation ago. In short, the House of Delegates will not be overturning centuries of legislative precedent this year, as we will adhere to the long-established custom of a House Bill being the ultimate vehicle for enacting the Commonwealth’s Budget.

Finally, your legislation has not and will not be ignored. The House has adhered to Virginia’s time-tested and proven model of enacting significant change. Constructive contributions are needed, however, the issue that needs to be addressed first is the state budget. I urge you to take action now on House Bill 5002, so that we may advance the budget process first and transportation later. The Senate Finance Committee’s determination to hold this budget hostage does a disservice to the people of Virginia. I am optimistic you will rectify this situation in an expeditious manner.


Vincent F. Callahan, Jr.

There it is -- both sides of the tale. And in spite of the rancor (and Leake's tantrum, which does not help his masters' case in the least), in the covering email, Paul Nardo notes:

Finally, things are looking very encouraging about the House and Senate resolving their differences on amendments to the 2004-2006 biennial budget (a.k.a. "caboose" bill) following the meeting this past Wednesday of the budget conferees. Progress is being made and hopefully final action by the General Assembly on that bill will come shortly, perhaps as early as next week.

So is there an end to at least some of the budget wrangling? Possibly.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 5/06/2006 1 comments


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