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Morning Read: Focus Shifts To Budgets In MD, VA

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    *With the gay marriage victory behind him, Gov. Martin O’Malley is now shifting his focus to the budget and the state’s projected $1 billion deficit.

    O’Malley is aware that closing this deficit won’t be easy and, according to the Baltimore Sun, said passing the budget could be even more controversial than his gay marriage bill.

    His tax-heavy proposed budget has already received significant criticism from his colleagues for its increasing of income taxes for anyone making more than $100,000 and shifting of half the costs of teacher pensions from the state to local governments.

    The budget also calls for a gas sales tax to fund transportation projects and a “flush tax” to curb water use.

    The Sun reports that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the Senate is preparing a “doomsday budget” that would plug the budget hold with about $500 million in additional cuts to O’Malley’s plan.

    These cuts would likely have to come from education and health care spending.

    Via The Sun:

    Miller, a Democrat who represents parts of Calvert and Prince George's counties, said the message to senators will be something like this: "If you don't want to vote for revenues, you're going to have to vote for these cuts."

    Any votes to avoid such cuts by raising taxes will almost certainly have to come from Democrats. There appears to be no support for additional taxes on the Republican side in either the Senate or the House of Delegates.
     

     * A decision that Gov. Bob Mcdonnell made when he was the state’s attorney general could come back to haunt him as he tries to get his budget passed in a split Senate where the Democrats aren’t budging.

    Last week, not one Democrat voted for the budget, and it failed 20-17 in the evenly split, 40-member Senate. Three Democrats were not there.

    In 2006, according to The Richmond Times Dispatch, AG McDonnell wrote an official opinion in which he said that, without a General Assembly-approved budget, the governor is virtually powerless to run the state.

    At the time, his fellow Republicans were in control of the legislature and Dem. Tim Kaine was governor.

    Via RTD:

    "It is my opinion that the Constitution of Virginia imposes the clear and certain duty solely upon the General Assembly to make appropriations," wrote McDonnell. "The constitution states that no funds are to be paid out of the state treasury unless appropriated by law by the General Assembly.

    "Further, it is my opinion that it is a question of fact whether conditions exist constituting an emergency under the Emergency Services and Disaster Law of 2000, and it is within the authority of the governor to make that factual determination. It is my opinion that when an emergency exists, the constitution does not expressly grant to the governor authority to expend state funds when there are no existing appropriations made by law.

     * The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board weighed in on the deal to require Amazon to remit sales taxes to Virginia starting in 2013 for purchases made in the state.

    The editorial said the decision was a good one because it leveled the playing field between Amazon and other business in the state.

    “Fifteen or 20 years ago, when blue-ribbon commissions were advising, "Don't tax the Internet," there was at least a case for giving a new economic sector some breathing room. Today there is no need for special treatment, and traditional retailers resent the competitive advantage enjoyed by companies such as Amazon when they structure their businesses to avoid state sales taxes. The resentment is justified.”

     * Watch here—only if you want to—a video of Virginia Del. David Albo speaking on the House floor about how all the talk of transvaginal ultrasounds cost him a night of lovemaking with his wife.

    * The public-private nonprofit that played a big role in helping former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.’s theft of more than $350,000 from the city is expected to face the council Monday.

    According to The Washington Times, Councilmember Jim Graham said he will present “substantial questions” to the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp. in an oversight hearing before his Committee on Human Services.

    Read more here.

    *The Post reports that D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown is trying to cut the council’s cell phone usuage after it collectively racked up more than $61,000 in bills in a little more than a year.

    Brown concluded that the council is wasting thousands of dollars each month because of an outdated group rate plan.

    * In an interview Sunday morning, Gov. Bob McDonnell said that one term for a Virginia governor is simply not enough.

    Virginia is the only state in the nation that limits its governors to one four-year term.

    Via the National Journal:

    "The problem is, there's a lack of continuity. After two years in office, I've already got people in the press worried about the next chase, the next election. And I'm saying, 'Hey, I'm not dead, I'm not gone,'" McDonnell said. "It also cedes more power to the state establishment, if you will, as opposed to the legislature or the executive branch. So I honestly thing the right formula would be to maybe slightly tweak the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branch and then allow a two-term governor."