Senate braces for budget showdown that could lead to shutdown

RICHMOND (WWBT)-  It is a phrase we hear often coming out of Washington, D.C. where bitter partisan showdowns are common.  But the threat of a "government shutdown" is being tossed around right here in Richmond, and both sides seem willing to stand their ground.

Make no mistake; if the process continues down its current path, A Virginia government shutdown is a real possibility. That has Senator Walter Stosch (R-Glen Allen) worried.

"This has never happened before," he said.

Stosch is concerned that senate democrats seem unwilling to pass a budget. The budget outlines spending for the next two years and must be in place by June 1st.

Democrats, like Henrico Senator Donald McEachin, believe they haven't seen a budget they can vote for.

"We're not going to vote for a budget like that," he said. "That doesn't reflect Virginia values."

This latest squabble goes back to when republicans decided to use Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's tie breaking vote to take charge. They stacked committees with more of their members. The budget is one of the only areas where Bolling's vote cannot be used to break ties.

"They cannot run this government without us," said McEachin. "They need to come to the table and actually talk to us and not dictate to us."

But Stosch claims the GOP openly discussed democratic contributions to the budget and passed many of them. He said if they are looking to share power, the budget should not be held hostage.

"At the moment I have no resolution to their political obstruction," he said.

No resolution is a scary thought. Without real path to a passed budget, the General Assembly creeps closer to that June deadline. A prospect that Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) warned is something they do not want to tempt.

"Make sure the Democrats in the other body come to their senses and understand that we need to finish the job we were all set in Richmond to do," he said.

A job that if not finished in time could lead to a government shutdown.

And late today we learned that Senator McEachin has dropped his lawsuit that would have the courts determine if the Senate should share power. That means the budget showdown is the only tool the democrats have left to use.

And what could a government shutdown mean? The governor has some emergency powers that could keep jails open and cops on the streets, but many "non-essential" state agencies, can and will be closed.

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