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Virginia Budget Impasse, Redux?

An op-ed in yesterday's Newport News Daily Press by Pat McSweeney, former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, provides the historic details of the 2004 budget impasse in Richmond. McSweeney tells that story to provide the context for asking whether the table is being prepared for a repeat in 2006, or whether tax increases should be legislated as "independent matters." Adding context, he notes, were "(n)ews reports from Minnesota, North Carolina, and California about government shutdowns or threatened shutdowns due to budget impasses in those states." In 2004, the two major players in the budget impasse were Governor Mark Warner (D) and Senator John Chichester (R). While Warner's term will be over at the end of this year, Chichester will still be there. McSweeney notes that Chichester and "his Senate colleague Russell Potts (R), an independent gubernatorial candidate, have proposed a substantial hike in special fund taxes (for example, the motor fuel tax) to pay for new transportation projects. McSweeney opines, "The responsible course is to resolve in advance not to have legislators enact another state budget with a gun at their heads, the gun being the threat of a government shutdown. Legislation to increase taxes should be address as an independent matter." Unfortunately, as he notes, "Special interests that favor tax hikes won't be pleased with this approach." Ah, yes, the special interests have to be taken care of first, even when the money is being pilfered from the taxpayers' pockets.