Democrats issue a list of budget demands

Senate Democrats are still angling for power, but in the meantime, they have issued a list of budget demands to the Governor:

The three-page letter from Sens. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, and Donald McEachin, D-Henrico County, insists that the budget include a gas tax increase tied to inflation rather than taking additional general fund revenues for transportation, as the governor has proposed.

The indexed gas tax is a key provision in the Senate budget, while the House bill opts for the incremental sales tax shift preferred by McDonnell.

So the Senate has already bought one of the demands. But the list is only getting started:

Democrats also want $300 million to buy down tolls on infrastructure projects in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads — the letter doesn’t specifically mention the Midtown/Downtown tunnel improvement project, but appears to reference it.

Their demands also include an amendment to the mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound bill to specify that the state or private insurance will pick up the tab for the scan; restoration of $455,000 for teen pregnancy prevention programs; and millions more in public education funding.

And the party wants a payment to the University of Virginia for the $576,000 in legal fees it incurred defending itself against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s pursuit of climate change research records; money for poison control centers; and funding for subsidized health-care treatment for certain elderly and low-income Virginians.

Considering the Governor signed the ultrasound bill today, accepting that demand will take a bit of work.

As for covering UVA’s legal bill…the University initially was going to comply with the AG’s request for documents, but reversed course under pressure from faculty and outside global warming advocates. The monies they paid out (to former Sen. John Warner’s law firm) were supposed to have been raised from private funds.

Ah well, it’s only (other people’s) money.

But it is interesting that this whole budget fiasco is now taking on overtones of a hostage negotiation. The original demand, for Senate power, is still there. But now other demands — some of which have already been met — are now on the table.

I suggest the Governor head down to Target, buy a bag full of gavels (if he’s feeling flush, he could have them personalized), and distribute them to various Senate Democrats and see if that breaks the stalemate.

Giving a toy to a screaming child can sometimes calm him down. Maybe it will work for put-out pols, too.

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