Governor Bob McDonnell just released a long and justifiably angry statement confronting Senate Democrats on their third budget obstruction in about six weeks. It pretty much hits on every conceivable point regarding Senate Democrats' highly partisan and obstructionist tactics that still leave the commonwealth without a two-year spending plan. (See next post for the statement.) But I can't resist three resonant "We-told-you-so's" reported/predicted on this blog not read many places elsewhere. First, as we commented during session, Senate Democrats were never serious about crafting a budget. They preferred to grandstand about "social issues wasting time and not dealing with the real issues," even as those bills were debated and voted upon in the normal legislative calendar while they actually did waste time and effort by feigning approval as long as their budget amendments were agreed to.
Second, as the governor points out, despite their protestations otherwise, Senate Democrats are obsessed with committee power, despite their loss in last November's elections, exacerbated, perhaps, by the now-minority leader's bravado that they would gain seats while not rubbing it in too much on the GOP (sentiments made before he could even find anyone to run, aside from his incumbents and newbies in safe districts, and needing to talk one senator out of his retirement). But there is one committee in particular they care about, one whose lust to rule keeps them up at night — Education and Health. The minority leader admitted as much, as we broke here, and for one plain, simple, raw reason — to serve as the blocking back for its benefactors at Planned Parenthood and the Virginia Education Association, in order to prevent protections for life and needed education reforms.
Third, during the third week of March, the mainstream media, unwilling to dig into any subterranean rumblings, much less semi-overt controversies, precipitated by the Senate's minority leadership, gleefully reported that there was budget peace, naively reporting with glee a unanimous Senate Finance Committee vote to approve a Senate budget. We outlined why there was no "peace in the valley" and expressed shock that so many media types pushed the budget issue to the back pages as if a deal was a formality when there were any number of reasons Senate liberals were ready block a final version with the House, none of which were ever going to be resolved in their favor: ultrasound funding, higher taxes, committee assignments, transportation earmarks. Some gave incredible credence to the hope that Senator Charles Colgan, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee and senior member of the Senate, would break ranks, somehow shocking the GOP majority we his vote fell through (see Washington Examiner). It's as if after two months of political neon sign flashing by the Senate's left, the media, pundits and even political pros, thought they'd taken a chill. But it's not only the weather that's been unseasonably warm this year.
Pick your metaphor here, but given the centennial hype over it, I'll say a budget deal then was about as secure as the Titanic making its way at night under a clueless captain. Tonight, at the Virginia General Assembly, the lifeboats are deployed.