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State lawmakers must work out a $3 billion difference between House and Senate budgets

The General Assembly session is done and dusted. But, lawmakers are still negotiating on the budget.

More money, more problems. That's the situation with Virginia's budget. The difference between the budget presented by House Republicans and the budget presented by Senate Democrats is $3 billion. Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says that's because the historic budget surplus this year is creating a lot of money sloshing around the system.

"Legislators being willing to leave town with that much money as a divider between the House and the Senate budget reflects more than anything else the huge amount of money that is essentially there in surplus this year," Kidd explains.

In previous years, having more money available might have made things easier. But Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says the fact that it's actually making things more complicated is a reflection of increased partisanship.

"When you're looking at a circumstance where there is a significant surplus, it ought to be easy for everyone to find something to like," Farnsworth says. "But in partisan times like this, even having a surplus, which normally smooths the way to a deal, doesn't seem to be happening right now."

Virginia requires a balanced budget, so at some point House Republicans and Senate Democrats will need to find some way of closing that $3 billion gap.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.