Earlier in the session I wrote that if we focused on those things that we agreed on we could accomplish much in this governor’s term. I have tried to do just that.
My focus continues to be workforce training and economic development, two things on which Gov. McAuliffe and I agree.
Therefore, I was somewhat surprised when the governor was quoted on a talk radio interview where he stated flatly that he thought that Virginia would have a budget by July 1.
It appears he does not understand how much uncertainty that would cause our counties, cities, and towns as they try to formulate their budgets. Even worse is if he understands and has chosen to move Richmond toward Washington politics.
Fear of bringing Washington brinkmanship to Virginia was one of the major concerns that many of us had in last fall’s election.
During the course of the election campaign Gov. McAuliffe was taped saying that he would not sign a state budget without expanded Medicaid included. Most felt that was simply campaign overstatement, now it appears to be the plan.
The governor followed up lecturing the House and Senate leaders about what he expected in the budget. Again, one of those things was expanded Medicaid.
At this point his only role should be to encourage the members to finish their work on the budget. He will have a chance to change it at the veto session.
To recap, the budget process to date is as follows:
Gov. McDonnell proposed his budget. Then, separately, the House and Senate reviewed that proposal.
Each body made changes to better reflect what we were hearing from our constituents. Because the two bodies worked independently, there are differences that the House and Senate conferees must work out. The governor has no role in that process.
Once the House and Senate reach a compromise on all issues, the budget is then sent to the governor. Once he receives it he can then offer changes that the General Assembly must agree to.
The system is set up at each point for head-to-head debate. It is not set up for a three-way confrontation.
By the time you are reading this we will have dealt with almost all other legislation. In each case, when the House and Senate agreed on the basic policy, but disagreed on the details, the differences were worked out with the governor biding his time to weigh in on the issue.
All should be willing to work toward common ground. No one can or should expect that their opinion should be the only one heard.
At this point, few expect that the differences will be dealt with on the budget by Saturday, the day that we should finish all business.
Hopefully, those of us who are not on the budget negotiations will be sent home until a compromise is agreed upon.
After this week, I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, 434-374-5129, or by mail at P. O. Box 332, Clarksville, Va. 23927.
Sen. Frank Ruff of Clarksville represents the 15th District, which includes part of Danville and Pittsylvania County.