On Sunday March 14, the 2010 General Assembly session adjourned. Considering the challenges that I described in previous updates, it was a huge success that we were able to complete our work just one day late. There were tremendous accomplishments that were made throughout the session in the areas of job creation, economic development, public safety and government reform.
This was the first year that I was appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to serve as a budget conferee- one of a dozen members who work together to craft the final budget. It was a steep learning curve and an eye opening experience to be involved in such complex negotiations, however, I feel I made a positive contribution.
This year's negotiations were made even more difficult by the immensely different approaches taken by the Senate and House to close Virginia's $4.2 billion shortfall. The House had proposed $685 million in cuts to K-12 education, while the Senate $143 million. The House also proposed no new fees while the Senate proposed $230 million in new fees to recover costs of services provided. With close to a total of $1 billion in differences to reconcile, negotiations between the House and Senate were extremely time consuming.
As we spent countless hours locked in negotiations and burning the midnight oil, there were times when we seemed to be moving in the right direction and moments
when we seemed deadlocked. But, the outcome was a strong budget that incorporated the best ideas of both the House and Senate proposals. There is plenty to not like, but in these tough economic times we, like all Virginians, were forced to make difficult decisions. The final outcome is a budget that streamlines government, maintains our AAA bond rating and limits the cuts to Virginia's education system.