Virginia budget talks progressing slowly

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - When lawmakers left Richmond at the end of February, they had some unfinished business.

And when six legislators from western Virginia sat down with members of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning, amendments to the current two-year spending plan were still a work in progress.

Del. Terry Austin (R-Botetourt Co.) is one of the budget conferees.

He told the audience and WDBJ7 the amount of tax relief continues to be a sticking point, but he remains optimistic members of the conference committee will eventually come to terms on the issue.

“I agree with the tax relief. We should send some money back to the taxpayers,” Austin said. “Hopefully, we’ll reach a compromise soon on what that will be and then we’ll know how many of the budget amendments we can approve and advance forward.”

Some of the western Virginia projects waiting on those budget amendments include Del. Sam Rasoul’s (D-Roanoke) proposal to transform Catawba Hospital and funding for the Virginia Museum of Transportation that Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) has supported.

Despite a divided legislature, lawmakers said they were pleased with what they were able to accomplish.

“I’m very satisfied,” said Del. Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke Co.). “I think the Roanoke Valley fared really well.”

And they are preparing for major turnover in the General Assembly.

“Definitely a big sea change in Richmond because of the number of people retiring. It’s a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge,” said Del. Wren Williams (R-Patrick Co.). “That is going to be tough, but it also makes way for some new ideas, fresh faces.”

And they paid tribute to Edwards, one of those veteran lawmakers who will not run for reelection in November.

“One of the things that’s going to be coming up in just a few months, we’ll be opening a neo-natal intensive care unit just down the street here in Salem,” said Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke Co.). “And that’s something Sen. Edwards and I worked in a bipartisan fashion for several years.”

“I’ve loved every minute being in the Senate, and I appreciate the help and support people have been giving me,” Edwards said. “I’ve really enjoyed it a lot and I’m going to remember these years very fondly.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Richmond for the veto session April 12.

It now seems unlikely that negotiators will have an agreement on all of the major budget issues by then.