Constitutional government and its ways

Published 3:51 pm Thursday, May 5, 2016

Many are frustrated by our government in Washington.

It grows ever larger every year. Our national debt is listed as $19 trillion, but considering our obligation to Social Security, federal retirees and other long-term obligations, it is far greater than that. That frustration has unfairly boiled over to those of us who serve in state and local government where we are obligated to deal with issues timely and we do.

People look at the inaction in Washington that has brought our federal government to a standstill. Even though congress is in session all year, we hear of very little legislation that addresses many of the ills that the average citizen sees that need correction.

Compare that to Virginia, where we are in session no more than 60 days a year. In Richmond we pass hundreds of pieces of legislation a year. The big difference is that legislation in Richmond can deal with one purpose only. Different issues must be separate legislation. In Washington everything, including the kitchen sink, can be included in legislation. This allows legislators to add something to any bill to make it more acceptable to a majority of legislators.

In Virginia, we are required to have a balanced budget. Some years it is more difficult than others, but we always reach a conclusion. I remember a dozen years ago, when we were having a particularly hard time settling on the highest priorities that year, a senator whom the media portrayed as the most conservative member of the Senate proposed following the Washington model of a “continuing resolution” to avoid a showdown on the budget. Just about every member of the Senate booed and hissed. We understood that Virginia should not even consider such folly.

The United States Congress did that once, and since that time they have moved farther and farther away from a responsible balanced budget. Once they saw how easy it was to ignore deadlines and spend money without making hard decisions, it became simply too easy to kick the can down the road to the next budget.

We are not perfect in Richmond, however, we continue to respond to the most important issues that face Virginians.

Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia Senate. His email address is