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Who "won" the budget agreement, Republicans or Democrats?


Members of the General Assembly usually hammer out a budget deal in February or March. They finished action Wednesday, six months late.

For months, Republicans and Democrats have been fighting with each other over how to spend an unprecedented budget surplus. Republicans were pushing for permanent tax cuts, but Democrats were successful in arguing for one-time rebates instead.

"You know, tax cuts, tax rebates. It's all about the same. We're going to put money back into folks' pockets. That's what's very important," says Republican House Leader Terry Kilgore.

"But you guys wanted some tax cuts, and you didn't get them," responds reporter Michael Pope.

"We did want some tax cuts. But tax rebates. We'll take that," says Kilgore.

"For the most part, the governor took an L," says Delegate Don Scott, who leads the House Democrats. "I don't know how you not say this is not an L for him. Go look at his introduced budget. He got about 10% of what he asked for in his introduced budget amendments. I mean this is math. I mean, any time I get 10%, that's an F. You know what I mean? You make a 10 on your test out of 100, that’s an F."

There's always next year, though, and the governor is set to introduce his next two-year budget proposal in about three months.

Mental health funding

There was another "winner" of the agreement — mental health initiatives, although advocates were hopeful the state would do more.

The budget agreement approved Wednesday by the General Assembly includes millions of dollars in funding for mental health initiatives.
Michael Pope has details.

Virginia is about to get 15 new mobile crisis units, as well as millions of dollars for crisis receiving centers and stabilization units. But, the funding is several months late.

Senator Emmett Hanger is a Republican from Augusta County who says people would already be receiving help if lawmakers got their act together earlier.

"Had we adopted the budget in a timely manner, say in February," Hanger says. "Then come July 1, we would have been able to deploy these services more quickly. So, we've lost time."

Senator Creigh Deeds is a Democrat from Charlottesville who was pushing for more money for community services boards. He wanted $60 million, although the compromise set aside $20 million.

"Is it enough? No, it's not enough. We wanted a much bigger pay increase for people at the CSB level. We didn't get that. We got some pay increase," says Deeds. "Now, the good news is that it's September. That's good news and bad news and bad news, right? We're six months late getting a budget done. But we'll come back in this process in January, whoever is reelected."

The next budget proposal will be presented in December by the governor, and it'll be considered by the next General Assembly.

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.