Governor, Fall On Your Sword
Va. Speaker of the House Bill Howell (R-Fredericksburg) reportedly has asked Gov. Mark Warner to state which of three tax plans he likes best, as Howell believes its Warner’s duty to “help quell ‘reckless’ talk of an impasse.”

Howell, you’ll recall, spent last year demanding Warner unveil his tax plan before the elections. Never mind that the GOP, which controls both houses in Virginia, refused to develop its own tax plan. Instead they said, we didn’t need higher taxes.

Now both GOP House conservatives and GOP Senate moderates have introduced tax hike plans. The third plan is the Governor’s.

So why should Warner pick a winner now? Hasn’t he already – his? Those being reckless are the right wingers in the House who want no tax hike, and an impasse will be the fault of members in both houses who won’t compromise. I just don’t see why Warner must pick a winner. Of course, neither does he. I feel for the Governor’s spokeswoman Ellen Qualls, who must answer the Speaker’s strange request. Must be hard to do with a straight face.

Howell’s request seems a ploy to shield House GOPers from the same criticism heaped upon House right wingers a few years back when their and Gov. Jim Gilmore’s refusal to compromise with Senate GOP moderates on the car tax cut resulted in no budget being passed for the first time in Virginia history.

The Speaker is afraid he’ll be the bad guy: “The thing we need to worry about the most is the rating agencies,” Howell said. “My goodness, what is Moody’s going to think if we can’t even get a budget together on time?”

Quiet Statesman
The Washington Post’s Jo Becker today writes a largely sympathetic profile of Va. House Appropriations Chairman Vince Callahan (R-Fairfax).

Over the years, I’ve found him in private to be a reasonable and conscientious steward of Virginia’s finances, though some of his pubic pronouncements this year (e.g., that localities are flush and don’t need help from the state) are puzzling. As he will most certainly be part of the conference committee that will decide Va.’s budget, it will be interesting to see how he handles himself then.

Perhaps most revealing is what Callahan told the Richmond Times Dispatch: “I don’t think anything is off the table, frankly.”

Speaking Of Tables, Drink Yourself Under One
Probably hoping Northern Virginians and their soul mates in the Tidewater area (which is to say they’ve emerged from the 19th century) will get so drunk they’ll forget to vote, the Assembly passed a bill allowing residents in those areas to buy liquor on Sundays. Gov. Mark Warner will likely sign the bill.

Another prison
While funding for education in Virginia remains woefully inadequate, a bill to fund two new prisons at a cost of more than $140 million is working its way through the Assembly. It has passed the Senate unanimously. Why more prisons? Because a few years ago Virginia abolished parole for most violent criminals.

In God We Trust?
The Assembly sent a bill to the Governor repealing authorization for a number of license plates with slogans. One was “In God We Trust,” the national motto. Apparently not enough people signed up for the plates. Perhaps the national motto should be: In god we trust, not before we verify all tickets with the state trooper, a lawyer and the judge.