Assembly 2011: House and Senate conferees talk on budget, Dems speculate on U. S. Senate candidate
The General Assembly's two bodies are trying to settle their differences over amendments to the state’s two-year budget ... while Democrats gathered over the weekend amidst speculation over their 2012 U. S. Senate candidate.
Since Senator Jim Webb’s announcement two weeks ago that he will not seek a second term, those who follow Virginia politics have been speculating on who the Democratic nominee for his seat will be. Former Governor and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is the clear favorite, though he has previously stated on multiple occasions a desire not to run for another office.
However, since Webb’s announcement, there has been a groundswell of support among Virginia Democrats for Kaine to run. At the state party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Saturday, the former Governor was greeted by loud chants of “Run,Tim, Run”.
While Kaine did not announce his intent to pursue the seat, he is no longer ruling it out.
Kaine: It’s touching, it’s gratifying to see so many people who understand that the race is important and who feel like I might be able to serve the Commonwealth in this capacity. It’s a challenge too, because I have a job that I absolutely love right now. I get to travel this country on behalf of the President and the party advocating for values I believe in, often going into some pretty tough territory.
I do understand, in the aftermath of Jim’s announcement, how important this seat is. So my wife Anne and I, we’re spending some time reflecting about it and I’m going to make a decision soon about whether I can best serve the Commonwealth and the nation as Chair of the party or Senate candidate. But whatever decision I make, I’m confident that the next Senator from Virginia will be a Democrat.
Former Congressman Tom Perriello has also received many requests from supporters to pursue Webb’s seat, though he has chosen for now to defer to Kaine.
Perriello: I think that it’s a very, very important seat. I think Governor Kaine’s in a great position to win it. I think we need the strongest possible people in the mix and I certainly have said that I hope Governor Kaine will run for that and I let him know that again tonight.
In other news, Virginia legislators now have just six working days until their scheduled adjournment and all eyes are on the budget. Lawmakers are tasked with amending the state’s two-year spending plan based on the first increases in state revenue in over three years. Senator Tommy Norment of James City County is one of the Republican budget conferees in the Democrat-controlled chamber.
Norment: I would say right now that there’s about 300 million dollars that is in play. The House has one approach on how to distribute that money, which includes about 154 million dollars in unanticipated revenues. They would like to do it in one-time non-reoccurring expenses. The Senate has a different approach. We are trying to backfill some of the draconian cuts we made in the 2010 budget.
Last year in the depths of the recession, the Virginia General Assembly cut spending about 4.3 billion dollars. Our two-year budget was about 75 billion last year, so it's a pretty substantial cut. We made substantial cuts to public education and K-12. It’s unprecedented in the modern history of the Commonwealth of Virginia that we would cut public education. So the Senate’s budget seeks to restore some of the cut funds to those core areas of government. That’s going to be a major discussion between the House conferees and the Senate conferees that we’re gonna have to overcome before we can really get down to moving pots of money around.
Republican Delegate Bob Tata of Virginia Beach serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
Tata: When you put the two budgets side by side, the House budget is not what they think it is, it's a pretty fair budget for education and I think that they will realize that after they see the comparison. The Senate has to do more juggling on the other side and they may have to give back some of what they've donated so far to education to try to make it whole, and I think our budget will prevail and will be the best.
Governor Bob McDonnell has said that he prefers the more conservative House of Delegates spending proposal and hopes that the conferees will produce a final budget more in keeping with the Republican-led chamber.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square