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Putney assumes role as chairman of Appropriations Committee

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By John Barnhart

Delegate Lacey Putney has taken on a new role in the House of Delegates.

Putney, who has been the vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is now its chairman. This committee is responsible for developing the House of Delegates version of the entire state budget. In addition, Putney said that all legislation regarding the Virginia Retirement System, and public employee pay and insurance goes through the Appropriation's Committee.

Legislation on all bonds also goes through Putney's committee. These bonds consist of revenue bonds, public building authority bonds and general obligation bonds. Revenue bonds are used to build things like college dormitories that will charge fees. General obligation bonds must be approved by the voters.

Putney's counterpart in the Senate will be Senator Chuck Colgan, a Democrat, who is now chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

"I look forward to working with him," said Putney, who described Colgan as a good man.

Putney and Colgan have knowen each other for a long time. Colgan was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 1976. They have served together on the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). JLARC is a watch dog commission consisting of senior members of the Senate and House of Delegates. It reviews the management, programs and fiscal operations of state agencies.

"I've worked with Chuck in years gone by on a number of issues," Putney said.

Together, the two men represent a total of 78 years of experience in the Virginia General Assembly.

Putney recognizes that the governor now has a majority of his own party in the Senate, and that means that there will be differences between the two legislative chambers on budgetary issues.

"I believe we will resolve them more readily and more cooperatively than we have in the last few years," Putney said, predicting a less confrontational relationship.

Putney hopes that both chambers will adhere to sound fiscal policy and be responsible to the taxpayers of Virginia as well as to those who get state money.

When the General Assembly convenes in January, they will actually face two budgets. One will be the biennial budget for the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years. The other will be a caboose bill to balance the remainder of the fiscal 2008 budget. The 2008 fiscal year ends on June 30.

Virginia House and Senate Republican leaders responded to the budget proposal announced by the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine, expressing concerns over the soundness of the 2008-2010 biennial spending plan and the optimistic future revenue projections ? in a period of economic uncertainty ? employed by the Administration in crafting it. House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), House Appropriations Chairman Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), Senate Minority Leader Emeritus Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City), Senate Republican Caucus Chair Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg), House Majority Whip M. Kirkland ?Kirk? Cox (R-Colonial Heights), and House Appropriations Vice Chairman Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) responded to the Kaine Administration?s proposals at a news conference shortly after the Governor and members of his administration unveiled the spending plan at a joint meeting of the House Appropriations, and House and Senate Finance Committees.

Last week Putney was among several responding to the governor's budget proposal announced last week, expressing concerns over the soundness of the biennial spending plan.

?When considering the proposals announced by the Governor today in their entirety, responsible legislators should have genuine concerns about the overall soundness and long-term fiscal integrity of the spending plan,? noted Putney last week. ?He proposes withdrawing $261 million from the Rainy Day Fund, the maximum allowed by the Virginia Constitution. He plans on diverting $180 million from the Transportation Trust Fund in Fiscal Year 2008 so he can fund new or expanded non-transportation programs. He wants to issue a total of $3.2 billion in new debt, taking the Commonwealth to the brink of its debt capacity limit. And, he?s basing these decisions on revenue assumptions for fiscal year 2010 that are exceedingly optimistic.

?If only one of these constructs were central to the Governor?s budget proposal, lawmakers would justifiably question its wisdom and its potential effects. With all of them and more as integral components of his plan, it jeopardizes the Commonwealth?s hard-earned reputation for fiscal responsibility and brings into question the overall soundness and long-term fiscal integrity of the proposal. The Governor?s budget proposal is built on the premise of begging and borrowing to the point of being reckless,? Putney stated.