RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) - Members of the Virginia House of Delegates have rejected the Senate amendments to the State Budget.
The rejection includes Portsmouth State Senator Louise Lucas' amendment to delay tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels until 2014.
That was expected, but what was unexpected was the continuing push by the Governor's Office claiming the Budget Amendment is unconstitutional. The office even provided an opinion the state Attorney General's Office , which cites specific reasons why the budget amendment is an issue.
Portsmouth Delegate Johnny Joannou, who is also a lawyer, agrees with the Governor's Office, "I think there are legal problems with the amendment..."
According to the Governor's Office, the budget amendment violates the U.S. and Virginia constitutions because "it legislatively attempts to dictate a change in contract terms for a previously executed contract."
In this case, that would be the contract between VDOT and Elizabeth River Crossing. So, Suffolk Delegate Chris Jones is asking for changes to be made to the agreement in order to continue delaying tolls in Hampton Roads until 2014.
Jones met with Governor Bob McDonnell's Chief of Staff Tuesday about the issue.
Jones told WAVY.com, "I told them I thought they should not sign the final financial agreement. They should wait. They should stand-down on that. They should look to rescope the size of the project..."
Jones wants the following changes made to the comprehensive agreement:
- Remove transit improvements - saving $116M
- Remove MLK extension as part of the project - saving $194M
- Fund the project with the VDOT Six Year Program
- Have VDOT do maintenance work, not private vendors
- Redirect Route 460 money to the Midtown Tunnel Project
- Prohibit all tolls until after completion
McDonnell thinks the comprehensive agreement that has been signed is the contract.
But, Jones contends, "I don't think they can execute the deal without that financial deal signed, so I would argue the contract has not been fully executed, so there is opportunity to act or be involved...I feel the deal was not a good one...if they can't improve it, they should exercise the termination for convenience."
The termination for convenience clause allows VDOT to walk away from the deal if it determines it is not in the best interest of the state.
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