Gov. Warner's rash
ploy of submitting a budget with tax-hike
assumptions built in threatens to undermine the
tried-and-tested balance of power between Virginia's
governor and legislature.
Gov. Mark R. Warner may prove to be the most impulsive
chief executive Virginia
has known in
modern times. Time
and again, he speaks and acts without considering
a solemn promise not to raise taxes during the 2001
campaign, but has been advocating tax increases ever
since he took office.
He campaigned saying that Gov. Jim Gilmore
and the General Assembly failed to produce a budget
in 2001 for the first time in state history,
although the statement was patently false.
He says he has reduced state spending, but itís greater now than in
insisted that his efficiency initiatives would avoid
$1 billion in costs, but canít substantiate that
month, he announced a plan to raise $1 billion in
net additional taxes while insisting, contrary to
the obvious facts, that 65 percent of Virginia
would pay less under his plan.
his most impulsive act may be his submission of a
budget on December 17 based on projections that
assume the legislature will enact every element of
his tax plan. Warner
doesnít seem to worry that this in-your-face
political gambit threatens to produce the very kind
of budget impasse he complained his predecessor
provoked in 2001. It
is also likely to weaken the office of the governor
and destroy an 85-year tradition of an executive
Executive Budget Act, which made the governor the
chief budget officer of the Commonwealth.
The executive budget process was greatly
strengthened by legislation enacted in 1975.
General Assembly is ultimately responsible for
appropriating state funds and approving tax
could have chosen to implement a legislative budget
process, as other states have, in which agencies
submit funding requests directly to the legislature.
Wise public servants in both branches have
long recognized that
having the governor function as the chief budget
officer providing legislators with the information
it needs to discharge its constitutional duty.
executive budget process canít work if a governor
plays political games with it, as Warner now is
will eventually push the governor as far out of the
budget process as they can rather than be
manipulated by him.
Warnerís recent budget submission were legal, it
would be politically unacceptable because of the
damage it does to
Virginiaís budget and financial management processes.
For those processes to work properly, the two
political branches must deal with each other in good
every political observer expects, the House of
Delegates doesnít accept Warnerís tax plan, the
appropriations process will be substantially delayed
while the governor prepares a new budget bill or the
House produces its own budget from scratch.
Once legislators discover that they can
produce a budget bill on their own, they are
unlikely to return to a process that allows the
governor to submit a budget with any revenue
assumptions he wants, regardless of existing law.
just doesnít seem to care what he is doing to the
long-term relationship between the executive and
He is living in the moment, focused only on
gaining short-term political advantage.
irony that the candidate who persuaded so many
voters in 2001 that he could improve the
relationship between the two political branches is
likely to poison that relationship not only for the
remainder of his term, but for governors and
legislators who will serve long after Warner is
January 5, 2003