Here it comes.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam presented his proposed budget for the Commonwealth, which, understandably, has raised concerns from conservatives across the state. Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) took issue to Northam’s spending proposals in a newly-released statement:
“Governor Northam presented a budget that, like the one passed by the Democratic Majority passed in October, is structurally out of balance and spends more money than Virginia actually receives in revenue. The budget relies on the strong fiscal position left by the Republican majority in order to fund the governor’s priorities.
“Unfortunately, many of the Governor’s priorities are misplaced. His budget fails to provide any meaningful support for students and parents grappling with virtual learning. The proposal also fails to address the ongoing problems with unemployment claims at the Virginia Unemployment Commission.
So instead of an actual budget dealing with realities, Northam has chosen to propose a partisan budget stacked with a wish list.
Cox’s concern that “the Governor’s priorities are misplaced” has to be the understatement of the century. Early 2019 marked a clear dropoff in Northam’s ability to effectively govern, when he was exposed for wearing blackface (and quite possibly a KKK outfit).
Yet rather than doing the right thing and resigning, Democratic leadership and the coterie of left-leaning lobbying groups now have Northam precisely where they want him, conducting a form of governing-by-apology in a scandal-sized hole.
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) was even more pointed in his critique of the governors new budget amendments:
“The amount of failing grades in our K-12 schools have skyrocketed. Children trapped in endless Zoom meetings aren’t just failing to learn — they’re losing hope. The Governor has proposed no funding to help parents get the technology or other assistance their children need to succeed in virtual schools. His budget includes no immediate help for families who live beyond the reach of broadband Internet. Children and families need help now, not down the road.”
What seems to concern House Republican leadership the most about Northam’s proposed budget — and rightfully so — is the Governor’s attempt to pack the Virginia Court of Appeals. Strategically placed in Northam’s spending plan is $5.1 million to expand the court from 11 to 15 judges. Cox states:
“I am seriously concerned about the Governor’s proposal to pack the Virginia Court of Appeals. While I recognize that additional capacity may be needed at the Court of Appeals, and I believe that civil cases merit review at the Court of Appeals, this General Assembly and this Governor should not get to pack the Court with Judges of their choosing. The enactment date of any court expansion should be staggered and new Judges should be appointed by a nonpartisan merit-based selection committee to ensure this does not become a partisan attempt to remake our well-respected Court of Appeals.”
In Virginia, the power to nominate these new judges would belong to the General Assembly, which fell under Democratic control in 2019.
Given the national Democrats complaint about President Donald Trump’s “court packing” scheme (read: filling vacancies in an entirely constitutional manner), Northam suddenly deciding to pack the court once his party assumes full power is hardly a coincidence. Stacking the court with far-left judges unconcerned with following the rule of law, who vote based on partisan views alone, seems to be a top-down trend for the Democratic Party.
Whether or not the radical wing of the Democratic Party continues down this road remains unclear. One hiccup in their plan would be the election of a Republican governor with a Republican General Assembly — where a three-seat Democratic majority in the Virginia Senate would have a much more difficult time explaining why what was “common sense” policy in 2021 should be discarded as rank partisanship in 2022.