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With new fiscal year approaching, budget negotiations appear to be in a stalemate

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ
The bell tower at the Virginia state capitol

The train is about to leave the station without a caboose — without a caboose budget that is. That's what members of the General Assembly call amendments to the existing two-year budget, and they've been locked in a standoff since February. Now the new fiscal year is starting without any budget amendments for new laws that go into effect July 1.

Bill Leighty was chief of staff to Governor Mark Warner when he entered office, and the General Assembly similarly failed to pass a caboose budget in 2001. He says the governor is probably more interested in looking ahead.

"And he is making the choice now, I'm assuming, that he is going to husband his resources for the legacy budget for his transformational budget that will be the hallmark of his four-year term as governor and forget wasting all his political capital trying to get a caboose budget of no consequence passed," Leighty says.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says the standoff is part of the Washingonization of Virginia politics.

"There is no political benefit to compromise. As a result, you have these impasses," Farnsworth argues. "The truth is that you could split the difference. The reality is that a lot of people would rather fight over the difference than resolve it."

Left behind in the budget standoff is all the laws passed earlier this year. None of the reforms aimed at transforming the mental health system, for example, will be funded until lawmakers come to some kind of resolution.

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.