Budget Cycle, Offshore Drilling, and Alternative Schools
Yesterday the Senate voted to postpone considering a change to the state’s budget cycle for at least a year and voted against a bill that would allocate royalties from offshore drilling to transportation. And Governor McDonnell announced legislation aimed at expanding the number of alternative schools in the Commonwealth.
The Senate has effectively killed the bill for the year that would change the budget cycle so that the Governor will present a budget at the end of the first and third years of his term. As the budget process stands now, the Governor delivers a biannual budget at the end of the second and fourth years of his term, putting the new Governor in the position to amend the budget of the outgoing Governor before adoption. The measure has been strongly encouraged by Governor McDonnell as well as former governors Kaine and Wilder. Republican Senator Ryan McDougle of Hanover patroned the bill.
McDougle: As we have sat in this body and listened to members speak for weeks about the need for leadership in Virginia, this is the opportunity for the members of the Senate of Virginia to take a leadership role and to say we are taking the budget process back and we are going to ensure when a Governor presents a budget bill that that Governor has to live with the ramifications of that budget bill as presented.
Democratic Senator Janet Howell of Fairfax put forth a motion to table the bill for the year.
Howell: I think to everything there is a season and this year we are facing an unbelievably complex and complicated budget year. I don’t think this is the time to change the system we’re under. I think that before we have another Governor it might be the time but for right now it isn’t.
The Senate voted 21 to 19 to put the bill back in committee until next year. Also yesterday the Senate defeated a bill that allocated 80 percent of any future royalties from offshore drilling to transportation funding. Senate majority leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax said that the bill ignored the realities of the attitudes towards these royalties in Washington.
Saslaw: This bill is not about drilling offshore. What this bill does is deal exclusively with royalties and unless there is some dramatic change in the United States Senate that will never happen on a bill that would have essentially given us or east coast coastal states the same royalties set up that the state of Louisiana has. That bill went down to defeat in the United States Senate by a vote of 16 to 37 with virtually every U.S. Senator in both parties between the continental divides of this country voting against it. What we’re doing is sending a bill through the system that just leaves out some false hope in the future.
Republican Senator Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach is the bill’s patron.
Wagner: You could have sat up here four years ago and said, Why are we as a General Assembly directing our state legislative office to seek a removal of the moratorium off the coast of Virginia? It’s ridiculous to do. There’s a congressional moratorium, there’s a presidential moratorium. There is no reason that we should tie up this General Assembly’s time to push forward something that has no chance of happening because of what’s going on in Washington. Ladies and genetlemen, we didn’t listen to that kind of rhetoric then, we pushed that bill through, we put it up on Governor Warner’s desk and, you know what, Washington heard it. It wasn’t within a year Washington included Virginia in the only Atlantic outercontinental shelf area to be considered for leasing in it’s five-year plan.
The Senate voted 22 to 18 to recommit the bill to the finance committee until next year. Gov. McDonnell said that he felt that the Senate’s defeat of these measures undermined the will of Virginia voters.
Governor: You’ll have to ask them why they wanna vote again for political reasons why they’ve sent bills back to committee that are overwhelmingly supported, I think, by the people of Virginia. Why did legislators who voted on committee in favor of these bills decide for partisan reasons that they are not going to support them on the floor of the Senate?
And, finally, the Governor held a press conference yesterday to announce to announce legislation to expand access to charter schools as well as virtual and lab schools.
Governor: It’s been 12 years since we first passed the charter schools bill in Virginia. Since that time out of about 4600 charter schools that are operating in America only three are actually operating in Virginia, with the fourth, the Patrick Henry Charter School, to open in the fall. We’ve been consistently ranked at the bottom of having the weakest charter school laws in the country. I think that’s an unacceptable situation in this time when innovation and entrepreneurship is really the buzzword in education around the country.
Appearing with McDonnel was former Governor Doug Wilder. Wilder said that Virginia needed to take action in order to take advantage of the federal, Race to the Top program, which subsidizes charter schools.
Wilder: Virginia lacks behind in terms of measuring up to being able to be even considered for getting money that we send to Washington. We’re not talking about anyone else’s money. We are talking about our own taxpayers dollars.
The bill should go to the House and Senate floors in the next few days.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capital Square.