HEADLINES : Virginia
Senate again spurns state budget
Democrats in the evenly divided Virginia Senate, united in protest over the exclusion of funding to mitigate tolls in Northern Virginia, today defeated the latest version of the state's two-year, $85 billion state budget.
The vote was 20-19, with 20 Republicans voting for the spending plan and 19 Democrats voting against it, with one Democrat not voting. The measure, a compromise agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators, failed because the budget requires a majority of members -- 21 -- to pass.
Senate Democrats are holding out for $300 million in transportation funds to cushion the blow of tolls in Northern Virginia. The tolls are to pay for the extension of MetroRail from Tysons Corner in Fairfax County to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Moments before the Senate vote, lawmakers in the GOP-dominated House of Delegates had voted 77-19 to approve the compromise version of the plan after extended discussion over similar transportation funding issues, but the budget requires the approval of both chambers to advance to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Rejection of the budget forces the General Assembly to start the budget process over again -- a potentially time-consuming endeavor that places increased pressure on localities to prepare their own spending plans for schools and government operations without a definitive spending blueprint from the state.