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Virginia Senate Entrenched In Budget Standoff

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Virginia Senate minority leader Sen. Richard Saslaw (D) got heated during a debate on the state budget March 7.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
  Virginia Senate minority leader Sen. Richard Saslaw (D) got heated during a debate on the state budget March 7.

Virginia House negotiators are becoming more optimistic about their progress on possible state budget deal, but in the Senate, a floor debate Wednesday was no indicator, at least publicly, that a budget would be ready by the scheduled General Assembly adjournment Saturday. 

In the meantime, a group of business leaders urged the Virginia Senate to approve a budget in a letter and at a press conference Wednesday.

The coalition of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, Northern Virginia Technology Council, and others said conferees need a vehicle to move negotiations and urged the Senate to approve something, and then iron out details later.

While calling Senate Democrats obstructionists, State Sen. Bill Stanley (R) referred to that coalition in an impassioned speech on the senate floor.

"In their letter, the business leaders mention our coveted AAA bond rating, which we hear much about," Stanley said. "Few people have talked about the fact that the ratings agencies already have virginia on the watch list, and they cannot be looking favorable on what they are seeing."

But Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw fired back. "We didn't have a budget in 2004 in the middle of May, and in 2006, in the middle of June. And there was no panic about our bond rating. We haven't even finished the session!"

In the House, Majority Leader Rep. Kirk Cox (R) said budget talks are going well and lawmakers disagree on only a small fraction of the $85 billion budget.

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