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Legislators return for veto session, budget vote
Date published: 4/16/2012
RICHMOND--This week state lawmakers will finally get the chance to vote on a final state budget.
But there's still no guarantee it will pass in the state Senate.
Legislators will return to Richmond on Tuesday for briefings on the budget deal reached last week, and then a vote on the bill.
Two Democratic Senate leaders have warned they won't vote for it--and don't expect the rest of their caucus to vote for it--because the budget deal doesn't contain additional money for the Dulles rail project to offset toll increases.
The Senate is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with each party having 20 seats. It requires 21 votes to pass a budget, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling can't break a tie on the budget.
As a result, Democrats were able to scuttle two previous budget votes during the regular legislative session. They said then they were holding out for additional money for education, health programs and other priorities.
They got most of what they wanted when Senate Republicans agreed to revise their budget proposal last month to win Democratic votes.
The Senate passed a budget bill and a small group of negotiators started meeting with their House counterparts to craft a final budget.
A deal on that budget was reached April 5, but without the Dulles money that Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, wanted.
At the time, Saslaw warned Republican senators that without the money, the Democrats wouldn't vote for the budget on the Senate floor.
So the outcome of the vote--both houses are due back in Richmond this Tuesday to vote on the budget bill--is not certain.
Sen. Chuck Colgan, D-Prince William, told the Washington Post he was likely to vote for the budget.
That would get the budget 21 votes, if all 20 Republicans vote for it.
But that isn't certain either.
Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, voted against the Senate's version of the budget a few weeks ago. Reached by phone on Friday, he said he has been on vacation, hasn't fully read the budget compromise yet and hasn't made up his mind.
"I'm more inclined to vote for it on Tuesday based on what I know, but I'm not certain yet," Stuart said. "I want to study more things about it before I commit."