The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Virginia General Assembly Evades Responsibility to Citizens

Heroes In Short Supply

Big Issues Left Unresolved

Frankly, I never wanted to address this issue in the first place.

There are plenty of other experts and pundits out there who follow the Virginia General Assembly all the time and know all the technical aspects of the budget process better than I do.

Besides, I am on vacation and don’t want to push my blood pressure up unnecessarily fretting about the General Assembly and their sorry handling of the Commonwealth’s new two-year budget plan.

But... what the heck... might as well give my two cents worth.

My overriding impression of the Virginia General Assembly is disappointment. I find it hard to find any heroes in this story. For those of you out there that care, we are down to 10 days until the start of the new two year budget.

Is this close enough to scare you?

Only after weeks and weeks of inaction, childish behavior, and political jousting has the leadership in the Senate and House moved towards doing what they have known all the time that they would have to do: get a budget in place... any budget!

I think there are some good people in Richmond who represent us in the Virginia General Assembly. But sadly, I am at a complete loss to say who if any demonstrated that important quality of leadership. Some seem content to just sit there and wait.

The politicians are no doubt beating their fists on their chests trying to rationalize that what they have been doing… essentially jerking the citizens around and jeopardizing our future… somehow made sense.

Some big issues are being compromised, including the Commonwealth's credit rating and reputation as a sound manager of state funds. In the end, the 600 pound gorilla in the State Capitol was successfully ignored for the time being. So the Commonwealth’s transportation issues are still up in the air… put off for another day… and not getting any cheaper.

What else did they forget or just flat out ignore?

One thing for sure, there was never, ever any real threat that the General Assembly or the Governor was really going to let the state government shut down. That was just theatrics and a little fun between the Democrat Governor and the Republican Attorney General and his Republican friends in the Senate and House. Really, unless somebody was born just yesterday, most people understand that this was just an adult version of the game of “playing chicken.” Who is going to be the chicken?

A second thing for sure, the good incumbent members of the General Assembly didn’t forget their favorite “pork” appropriations. These little pet projects, political payoffs and favors to keep folks back at home "in the pink" are what politicians hold near and dear to their hearts. If all the roads of the Commonwealth were crumbling (I mean more than they actually are), politicians are still going to get their “pork” appropriations taken care of first. I wouldn't say all these "pork" appropriations are a complete waste of tax dollars. But too many of them are questionable public expenditures and some fall so far short that they are indeed a complete, unnecessary wast of tax dollars.

Maybe these "pork" appropriations are good for incumbents on election day, but that is about it.

I have a theory.

Maybe this little recent display of General Assembly paralysis is a clever ploy to gain popular support for the idea of changing from a part-time citizen legislature to a full-time professional legislature.

Take a moment to wrap your mind around that thought.

Of course, if we fall for that ploy, we will have to give all these heroes in the General Assembly enormous raises and equally large staff budgets to conduct the Commonwealth’s business.

How depressing is that?

NOTE: Also see previous Iconoclast article.


  • At 6/21/2006 2:18 AM, Blogger EA said…

    Things are getting interesting arent they, I just hope the sky doesnt fall in the meantime.

  • At 6/21/2006 2:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My buddy in Richmond tells me that the official pork is probably less that $50 million in a $70 plus billion budget. Maybe that is not too bad.

  • At 6/21/2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting theory...I do hope this never comes to be, scary. the last thing we need to do is let these guys sit around richmond all year and play politician...atleast we make them go home in the "off season" now, and this is good.

  • At 6/21/2006 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The more entrenched these people get in their politician role, the more issolated they become to the people they are suppose to be serving. This makes them easy pickens for the fat cat lobbiest. If you don't beleive it, just ask former fighter ace and US Congressman and now inmate Duke Cunningham.

  • At 6/21/2006 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like Jeff Shaperio. If anybody has figured out how the Assembly works, it is probably him. We need more reporters like him to ratchet up the public focus on what is going on in Richmond. I don't like taxes any more than anyone else, but we got to quit putting off obvious problems.

  • At 6/22/2006 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Count me among those who were getting a bit worried about the pending budget deadline. But, I am still concerned about this roads problem. As a retired CFO in the heavy construction industry, I can't quite figure out what it is that the General Assembly expects to gain through "creative financing" and Public /Private partnerships for major road projects. Most business people who want to stay in business expect an appropriate return on investment for any project undertaken. The private sector isn't going to put its capital at risk unless there is an appropriate reward. So, what are these legislators expecting to gain? There is no such thing as a free lunch.

  • At 6/24/2006 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think what the politicians are talking about with these public private partnerships and creative financing is a scheme to divert public attention for the high cost of transportation away from themselves and redirect it to to the private sector so that voters won't take it out on them on election day. It is hard to beat tough open competitive bidding. If VDOT has to charge tolls, so be it. I agree with the earlier comment- there is no free lunch. If we want to keep moving and have a modern transportation system, it is going to cost us consumers. Let's give VDOT the responsibility and make it as efficient as possible.


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