This report is part of our ongoing Divided by D.C. project, exploring two Governors, two visions, one election year.
Virginia inched closer to a government shutdown Tuesday when Senate Democrats opposed an $85 million budget bill.
The Senate needed a 21-vote majority to pass the proposed spending bill. Early in the day, hope remained that the bill would push through. But the Democrats stuck together and voted “no,” causing a 20-19 split. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, cannot break tie votes on budget matters.
The Democrats’ sticking point: not enough money to fully support a Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.
Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw, who represents Falls Church and parts of Alexandria and Fairfax County, defended his party after the vote.
“Northern Virginia is the economic engine that drives this state. We contribute 40 percent of the revenue that keeps this state going,” Saslaw said, according to the Associated Press. “I didn’t feel one bit embarrassed about going into his office and asking for additional funds for rail to Dulles.”
Republicans have accused the Democrats of blocking any budget proposals and refusing to compromise.
Gov. Bob McDonnell blamed the Democrats in a statement Tuesday night:
“They brought their political agendas to the Senate floor, and in the process have put at risk a Bristol teacher’s paycheck, a Chesterfield sheriff’s salary, healthcare for a senior citizen in Hampton, road projects in Richmond, and the fiscal soundness of the entire Commonwealth,” he said. “This will have serious consequences for all Virginians. Budgets are a tapestry of compromises. No legislator ever gets everything he or she wants in a governing fiscal document.”
The state must pass a budget by the end of June, when the current budget expires, or face a suspension of government operations and construction projects. Local governments and school districts also wait for signals from Richmond so they may finalize next year’s spending.