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Senate adjourns without voting on highways bill

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2013 at 8:39 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013

Senate Democrats wanted a letter from McDonnell to confirm his acceptance of that compromise.

McDonnell's letter was addressed only to Senate Republican Leader Thomas K. Norment and not to any Democrat. In it, he wrote that the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission "will institutionalize a process in state law whereby thoughtful discussion and meaningful system reforms are an integral part of any process as the commonwealth moves forward" in negotiating waivers for cost-cutting and efficiency reforms with the federal government.

"I look forward to reviewing the final language that is agreed upon ... when the budget reaches my desk," McDonnell concluded.

But the administration insisted there was no link between the Democrats' threat to destroy his defining legislative initiative and the letter.

"Medicaid and transportation are two completely separate and independent issues," spokesman J. Tucker Martin said.

Earlier Friday, the transportation package passed the House thanks to strong support from the Democratic minority.

Twenty-five House Democrats supported the bill; only seven opposed it.

Republicans, who control more than two-thirds of the House's 100 seats, were almost evenly split, Thirty-three anti-tax Republicans opposed it, while 34 Republicans supported it. It was also supported by the chamber's only independent, Del. Lacey Putney, who organizes with the GOP.

Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, called it a massive tax increase that would negate any economic benefit from upgrading and maintaining the state's roads.

"I hear my colleagues say, 'We've got to do something, we've got to do something.' Well, this bill does something, but I will tell you that it is the wrong thing," Cline said. "See what happens when we raise just about every tax dealing with transportation, and some others that don't deal with transportation, and see what happens to our business rankings and our business reputation."

The outcome was assured, however, as one Democrat after another blessed the compromise in floor speeches.

"There are times when you have to look beyond yourself and look at the whole, and that's what governing is. That's why you're down here. Yes, you're down here to protect your individual piece of the pie, but the puzzle doesn't work 'til you put it all together," said Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke. He was the lone House Democrat on the team of five delegates and five senators who brokered the transportation compromise over four days of negotiations.


Follow Bob Lewis on Twitter: (at)APBobLewis