Opinion – Democrats should open budget process

Published 4:17 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

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As I write this, Special Session #2 for 2021 has just started, and it’s clear to me that Democrats plan to decide how to spend $4 billion in federal money with little to no transparency.

The Democratic majority has told members in an official memo that no member will be allowed to make amendments to the proposed budget. They’re effectively saying they will write the budget behind closed doors without any input from the people or their elected representatives.

This session has been called to appropriate billions of dollars of taxpayer money, and the only thing that’s clear is Democrats don’t want outside input.  What we do know is that Democrats have no intention of letting anyone other than the governor and the people he meets with behind closed doors have any input into the process.
Delegates got a memo last week from Delegate Luke Torian, the chair of the appropriations committee, telling us that no amendments to the bill would be entertained. That means the only input on how billions of dollars will be spent will come from Democrats.

It’s telling that Democrats simply want to rubber stamp Governor Ralph Northam’s plan. Everyday Virginians, on the other hand, have been completely left out of the process. That’s by design.
If the process were open to amendments — as is customary — then the public would have a chance to tell legislators how they’d like to see their federal tax dollars spent.  Instead, Democrats have chosen to govern behind closed doors.
If Democrats were confident that the public would support what they proposed, the process would be open. Republicans have never stopped listening to our constituents, and we’ve heard their priorities for this funding. We will not let this rubber stamp bill go unchallenged, and will do our best to see that the priorities of our constituents are reflected in this legislation.
Refusing to entertain amendments is an abandonment of the House’s fundamental responsibility — to manage the public treasury. It’s not too late to change course. Democrats can open the process, hold hearings on amendments and listen to input from Virginians.
We will unveil specific amendment proposals this week. But broadly speaking, our constituents want us to address one-time needs with one-time money: crumbling schools, rising crime, the increase in cost of living, and fighting learning loss.
They want us to ensure that their children will be educated, not indoctrinated. And they want us to ensure that young children don’t suffer through another year of masks simply to make the teachers’ union happy. They want us to ensure that the high standards of our school systems aren’t allowed to slip.
They want us to make their neighborhoods safe again, and they want us to help them deal with inflation by reining in policies that have made energy more expensive for families and small businesses. They want us to get to the bottom of what happened at the Parole Board and why.
They want us to help their businesses survive by heading off a massive tax increase that will occur if we don’t fix the unemployment trust fund. More than anything, our constituents want the Democratic stranglehold on power to end. They want people to work across the aisle to get things done.
The legislature has a tremendous opportunity to provide real relief to Virginians who have been negatively impacted during the pandemic and make one-time investments that will have lasting effects. Instead of working with us, Democrats have decided to force their priorities through without debate. This could be surprising to many, but given the fact that Democrats have perfected the art of cutting off debate during their time in the majority, it’s no longer surprising to me.
It’s telling that they don’t want to discuss and debate K-12 curriculum. It’s telling that they don’t want to discuss and debate the Parole Board scandal. It’s telling that they don’t want to discuss and debate the increased crime impacting communities across Virginia. They’re more focused on shoving through a Northam budget than having the legislature do its job, which is to set budget priorities.
This isn’t leadership.
Virginia families and businesses have been put through the ringer since March of 2020. Businesses that survived still have burdensome regulations on the books and are staring down a massive unemployment tax hike come January. Yet, for some reason, Democrats want us to rubber stamp an amended Northam budget with no discussion, no debate. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it appears Northam and his inner circle have decided what’s best for Virginians.
What about the real concern that businesses face an over $1 billion tax increase next year?What about the real concerns families have with the cost of living increasing rapidly? What about the real concerns parents have about their children’s curriculum?
Keeping this process closed off from the public and the opposing party is a play we’ve come to expect. It’s just unfortunate they continue to call that play.