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Senate joins House in passing state budget

On the fourth try, the Senate joined the House on Wednesday in approving an $85 billion state budget for the next two years.

One Democrat, Sen. Charles Colgan of Manassas, joined all 20 Senate Republicans in voting for the budget bill, HB 1301. The House had approved the measure, 77-19, on Tuesday.

A day earlier, Colgan and all other Democrats present voted against HB 1301, complaining that it lacked funding for the second phase of the Dulles Rail extension to Loudoun County. That prevented the budget from getting the 21 Senate votes it needed to pass.

Republicans applauded Colgan for his change of heart, and they criticized Democrats for their budget tactics.

“After two months of obstructionism punctuated by one last-ditch attempt by the leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus to derail the budget process, the General Assembly has fulfilled its constitutional duty to pass a budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.

Norment said the budget wouldn’t have passed “without the statesmanship of Sen. Chuck Colgan. He demonstrated again today why he is one of Virginia’s most respected leaders.”

Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday “was a good day for the Senate and a great day for Virginians.”

“The budget we approved provides much needed funding increases for K-12 public education and for our state-supported colleges and universities,” Stosch said. “It also provides critical funding for transportation needs across the state, our local governments, health-care services, our state parks and all operations of state government.”

Democrats said that by blocking the budget, the party forced Republicans to restore cuts in government services.

“The governor proposed taking $100 million from public education and public safety to finance transportation, slashed the health-care safety net and cut millions from the cost of competing funding for hard-to-staff positions in public school,” said Delegate Mark Sickles of Franconia, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.

“While this is not the budget that we would have crafted, it is a vast improvement over the original proposal.”

The budget will take effect July 1. Republican officials warned that by holding up the budget process, Democrats were risking a state government shutdown and preventing local governments from preparing their own spending plans.

“We said on several occasions that this budget would come in due course,” said the Democratic leader in the House, Delegate David Toscano of Charlottesville. “With a budget in place, our schools and local governments will be able to adopt their own budgets well in advance of the close of the fiscal year.”

Sickles said Democrats “remain hopeful that we can find a solution to the funding dilemma on the Dulles Toll Road and provide toll relief to the families who will face high skyrocketing tolls without additional assistance from the commonwealth.”

On Tuesday, citing a recent study, Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax said the Dulles Metrorail project was vital to his region.

“In the ‘Top Five Public Works in America,’ the No. 1 project was the Metrorail to Dulles. It has already caused major things to happen such as job creation, which totals about 300,000 jobs in the Arlington and Clarendon area,” Saslaw said.

Without funding for the Metrorail extension, Saslaw said, Loudoun County residents eventually would be paying almost $12 each way to commute to work in the Washington, D.C., area.

Because of the dispute, the General Assembly failed to pass a budget during its regular legislative session, which ended March 10. Since then, a conference committee of House members and senators has been trying to hammer out a compromise.

How they voted
Here is how the Senate voted Wednesday on “HB 1301 Budget Bill.”
Floor: 04/17/12 Senate: Conference report agreed to by Senate (21-Y 19-N)

YEAS – Black, Blevins, Carrico, Colgan, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins -- 21.

NAYS – Barker, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw -- 19.
Here is how the House of Delegates voted Tuesday on “HB 1301 Budget Bill.”

Floor: 04/17/12 House: VOTE: ADOPTION (77-Y 19-N)
YEAS – Albo, Alexander, Anderson, BaCote, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Brink, Byron, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, J.A., Cox, M.K., Crockett-Stark, Dance, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Howell, A.T., Hugo, Iaquinto, Ingram, Joannou, Johnson, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LeMunyon, Lewis, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Massie, May, Merricks, Miller, Minchew, Morefield, Morris, O'Bannon, O'Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Purkey, Putney, Ramadan, Ransone, Rush, Rust, Scott, E.T., Scott, J.M., Sherwood, Stolle, Tata, Torian, Villanueva, Ware, O., Ware, R.L., Watson, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Yost, Mr. Speaker – 77.

NAYS – Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Herring, Hope, James, Keam, Lopez, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Plum, Sickles, Spruill, Surovell, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts – 19.

NOT VOTING – Englin, Kory, Marshall, R.G., Robinson – 4.


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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