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Va. House Panel: No McAuliffe Budget Proposals

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    The House Appropriations Committee doesn't plan to consider any amendments offered by Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe to Virginia's proposed two-year budget.

    The committee's next chairman, Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, informed House members of the decision in a Dec. 19 memo, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

    The memo says the decision is based on a precedent set four years ago by Lacy. E. Putney, the committee's former chairman. Putney had said the committee wouldn't consider budget amendments proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, the newspaper said.

    "I have pledged to work with the governor-elect, and we have tentatively scheduled a meeting to discuss his thoughts on the budget after his inauguration,'' Jones wrote.

    Senate Finance Chairman Walter A. Stosch, R-Henrico, said he hasn't determined whether his committee would consider budget amendments proposed by McAuliffe. He agreed with Jones that gubernatorial amendments are unnecessary and could delay budget deliberations.

    "It's not a discourtesy at all,'' Stosch told the newspaper. ``It's an invitation to talk informally and then use the formal process of the reconvened session and then consider whatever amendments he proposes.''

    House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said the decision is about legislative prerogative.

    "It's what they are trying to assert,'' he told the newspaper.

    Toscano predicted the decision will make it harder for McAuliffe, a Democrat faced with a House in which Republicans hold two-thirds of the seats, to have an effect on the budget until the veto session in April.

    "It certainly could slow things down by considering the governor's amendments in the veto session,'' he said.

    A McAuliffe spokesman, Brian Coy, says McAuliffe has had productive conversations with Republicans and Democrats "about working together closely to pass a budget that spends taxpayer dollars wisely on priorities that will create jobs, grow the economy and improve Virginians' quality of life.''

    "He looks forward to working with those leaders to provide his input on the budget process to ensure that the end product is a budget that works for all Virginians,'' Coy told the newspaper.

    The General Assembly is not obligated, either by the Virginia Constitution or the state code, to consider budget amendments offered by the governor until the reconvened ``veto'' session after the assembly adopts a budget.

    Former Gov. Mark R. Warner and former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine were offered the opportunity to propose budget amendments when they entered office.

    Toscano said that McAuliffe could introduce budget amendments through members of the House.

    "You wonder why they would prevent the governor from offering amendments to the budget,'' Toscano said. ``There are ways around it.''