Column by Chris Graham
It was much ado about … nothing, really.
I mean, seriously, what did five days of overtime get us as far as the tax dollars that we had to spend ironically to get a budget out of our legislators are concerned?
Well, we got $1.5 million for Alicia’s Law.
That’s right. Million. With an m.
“It is inconceivable to me that in a $77 billion budget, we can’t find $1.25 million to protect children who are victims of predators over the Internet,” said House Democratic Caucus chair and presumed Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination candidate Brian Moran in an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week as House and Senate budget negotiators quibbled over funding for Alicia’s Law, which will expand regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forcesthat will investigate, arrest and prosecute online sexual predators predators.
Almost inconceivably, Senate negotiators wanted to strip the funding from the budget.
In the end, Moran got his $1.25 million and a little more, as the negotiators approved $1.5 million in funding for the task force.
I think Moran hit the nail on the head about the millions and billions flying around.
Somehow, some way, this amount of money was a holdup to the budget getting done.
We had to go into overtime over this?
It is certainly a far cry from the good ol’ days of 2004, when Mark Warner was fighting the good fight to get the state to meet its core responsibilities in education and public safety, and Republicans were fighting back with ammunition that stoked antitax fires in the red parts of Virginia.
Oh, we were promised a knockdown, dragout brawl along the lines of ’04 back before the General Assembly session started in January. Republicans, for instance, were hopping mad about Gov. Tim Kaine’s inclusion of a few hundred million dollars from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget.
Not over their dead bodies, was the message from House GOP leaders.
Ho, hum. Things have somehow gotten to the point where House Speaker Bill Howell was touting how the budget agreement “advances fiscally conservative principles by keeping the Rainy Day Fund withdrawal under the amount proposed by the governor, insists that government lives within its means in these challenging economic times and relies on substantially lower amounts of debt than included in the governor’s budget” in a press release on the agreement this week.
I’m sure Grover Norquist is turning over in his grave as we speak.
(And yes, I’m aware that Norquist is still very much alive. Though he can’t be living the good life when conservatives in Richmond are feeling fat and happy over not being as profligate in their use of the Rainy Day Fund as the Democratic governor.)
So in sum, we got $1.5 million to fight Internet sex crimes, more money in the Rainy Day Fund, but not much more.
Not to mention an extra billion for required updates to the public-school curriculum over the next two years.
That about does it as far as the scorecard goes.
I’m still wondering about the overtime. They’d better not be getting time-and-a-half. That’s all I’m saying.