This Week in Richmond

Posted: February 19, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

This weekly column, written by Thomas Hennessey, chief of staff to President Alan Merten, is published to keep the university community informed on the legislative situation in Richmond and how those developments directly affect George Mason.

With the decisions of the House Finance Committee last week effectively eliminating all proposals for increased revenue, the House Appropriations Committee moved forward on a budget built without any new revenue sources. Appropriations Chairman Vince Callahan noted that the Appropriations Committee would craft a budget on the $1.8 billion in new revenue projected for the 2004-06 biennium, which includes restoring some base funding to higher education ($128 million). Addressing some of the shortfall in financial aid is one of the priorities.

As one newspaper described it, last Friday Del. Phillip Hamilton surprised everyone by trying something different–something that comes to grips with the reality that Virginia can neither grow nor reasonably cut its way out of its current fiscal mess. “Different,” in this case, is a proposal to repeal the special tax arrangements granted to various commercial and industrial interests over the years.

While some may view this move to repeal many “tax breaks” for business as retribution for business organizations’ support of the governor’s tax reform proposal, others see it as a final realization that the budget cannot be crafted on a “do nothing” basis. Should the legislation, which has now been passed to the Senate, be approved, it would provide additional revenue for many of the currently unfunded requirements of the commonwealth.

Yesterday was “crossover day” for the House and the Senate. All bills except budget bills had to be sent to the other house to be considered during this session. Between now and March 13, each house must consider all legislation forwarded by the other house. On March 3, the House and the Senate will consider the budget bills sent to them by the other house. Budget conferees will begin work on March 3 or 4 and must complete their work on March 9, with final approval of the budget conference report on March 13.

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