RICHMOND — The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously today to advance a two-year, $85 billion state budget plan, setting the stage for a Monday floor vote and negotiations with the House of Delegates.
The Senate panel approved the budget plan (HB 1301) after incorporating some of the spending demands of Senate Democrats, who twice blocked passage of a budget bill during the General Assembly’s regular 60-day session. Lawmakers formally began a special session on March 10 to deal with the budget.
Democrats removed a major barrier to a deal when they separated their demand for more power in the evenly divided Senate from budget negotiations with Republicans, who have working control of the chamber. The plan approved by the Finance Committee today includes additional funding Democrats had sought for public schools, health and human services programs and toll relief for transportation projects in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
The committee-approved budget plan does not contain funding to cover the costs of pre-abortion ultrasound procedures that will be mandated under legislation that Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed into law. Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County, said Democrats will introduce a floor amendment Monday in an effort to get the provision included in the budget bill.
The budget bill was introduced in the House of Delegates, which passed the measure earlier this month. If the Senate passes the revised version of the bill Monday, conferees from the two chambers then would work to reconcile differences between the two plans. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Walter Stosch, R-Henrico County, said today that he hopes the two chambers can reach a compromise quickly.
– Michael Sluss