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Politics Beat: Virginia still doesn’t get it


We make it hard for governors already by only letting them serve one four-year term. Then we make it harder for them by only letting them submit one budget.

state-capitol2OK, so technically they submit two budgets, one in the middle of their term and one at the end, for their successor to have to deal with.

But you can see how messed up our system is there.

“It’s not anything new for McAuliffe,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, of the memo that he sent to incoming Gov. Terry McAuliffe, letting McAuliffe know that his committee would not consider amendments to the budget proposed by outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell from the McAuliffe administration.

Which makes sense because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Seriously, that’s the right answer here.

The Virginia Constitution actually spells that out. Well, sorta. The Constitution actually says the General Assembly doesn’t have to consider amendments to the budget from the governor until the reconvened session after the main legislative session.

McDonnell faced the same restriction that McAuliffe will face, but Tim Kaine and Mark Warner were permitted by previous GAs to present budget amendments when they took office.

What the current issue is all about, in the mind of Charlottesville Democratic Del. David Toscano, is “legislative prerogative.”

Which is the same hurdle we face with the issue of governors being able to seek re-election. Legislators who can stay in Richmond for 20, 30, 40 years or more don’t like the idea of a governor being able to stay eight because governors have too much power in our system, they say.

So what if that makes it difficult if not impossible for any one governor to get things done. You know, because four years is here and gone in an instant.

And then really, when it comes to setting an agenda, you really only get that one two-year budget to be able to push any kind of program through before it’s time for the next person to come in.

Whether Virginia is red or blue in terms of voting habits is immaterial. The system we have in place is inherently conservative, if not regressive.

It may not be what you expect out of your government, but it’s the government that you have.

Column by Chris Graham



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