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General Assembly inertia--with political fratricide for the GOP
The General Assembly impasse is worst-case GOP scenario

  Richard Amrhine's archive
  E-mail Richard Amrhine
Date published: 5/21/2006


POLITICAL stalemates like the current one in Rich- mond are usually resolved through compromise. But this time, neither side appears willing to give an inch. Any negotiations of substance have been successfully shielded from the public.

If this showdown does indeed become one for the books, it will be House Speaker Bill Howell, the Stafford Republican, to whom history will be unkind.

He has made debate about the budget or transportation or who has the better plan irrelevant. His sole priority is to win this battle of wills, and prove that he can stand in the way of a tax increase, something he was unable to do do a couple of years ago.

He has reportedly used some serious political arm-twisting to make sure the Republican defectors of 2004 don't attempt a repeat performance.

His stand would be valiant if it weren't so misguided.

Even if Howell were persuaded in his heart of hearts that a separate, dedicated fund for transportation spending would be wise, he has dug himself a hole too deep to climb from and save face.

Here's a little background in case you've managed to ignore this year's embarrassment in Richmond. The General Assembly has failed to approve a budget--something it should have done more than two months ago. The tandem issues are how to pay for upgrading Virginia's ailing transportation infrastructure, and the interchamber squabbling that that pits House Republicans against their counterparts in state Senate.

The realization that this is what happens when Republicans control both Assembly chambers is inescapable. That Virginians were promised strong and unified leadership by these Republican majorities is ironic to the point of being laughable--if this weren't such a serious situation.

Speaker Howell and the House Republicans want to fund transportation with existing money funneled from the state's general fund, collecting nickels and dimes in hopes of getting the job done. They think nothing of drawing on funds budgeted for education, public safety, and health care. Those services have plenty to spare, right?

The Senate, on the other hand, wants a series of tax increases to raise at least $1 billion dedicated to transportation--money that would actually be there without needing to squeeze blood from those other turnips.

Which plan do you think would actually work? (Here's a hint: You are experiencing the success of the House transportation funding strategy every day on the roads.)

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