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Lobbyist Overload: State Budget Snubs City


The city, however, is getting zilch. Neither the House nor Senate version of the state budget includes any money for those programs.

Blame it on the lobbyists, some say. The legislature was deluged with too many lobbyists representing the city, some lawmakers and lobbyists say, which clouded the city's priorities.

Because of its unique strong-mayor system, Richmond is the only Virginia city with lobbyists registered for both the city (i.e., the mayor) and City Council. Mayor L. Douglas Wilder has one lobbyist, David E. Evans with McGuireWoods, though some say Wilder considers himself to be his own chief lobbyist.

City Council has five registered lobbyists, including liaison Daisy Weaver. And other representatives showed up for various city agencies.

Council President Manoli Loupassi says it's too early to say how the city will fare in the final version of the state budget. But it would have helped if the council, the mayor and city agencies had presented a unified front, he says. Loupassi says the mayor wasn't eager to sit down and talk. Wilder responded to council members' queries about his legislative priorities by sending them a newspaper article.

The council's principal lobbyist, Ron Jordan, says the city's failure to get its requests funded has less to do with lobbyists than with the nature of the legislature, which is grappling with a perceived inequity among Virginia cities.

Also, Jordan says, the city doesn't have a hometown representative on the House Appropriations Committee. Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, D-Richmond, "can push hard" on the Senate Finance Committee, Jordan says, but Lambert has no House counterpart.

Overall, Jordan says, he's pleased with the results. "I was very proud of the way the mayor and the council worked together on the charter bill," he says.

While many of the council's priorities have been omitted from both versions of the state budget, the city stands to lose even more if the House's budget wins out. For Richmond, the Senate budget provides a 100 percent match of federal funds for new city transportation projects: a new Mayo Bridge, funding for urban road maintenance and $2.5 million to fix city sewers. It also restores some state funding for city police and includes a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The House budget provides an 80 percent match for the federal transportation funds, less money for urban roads and nothing for sewers. It also fails to restore police funding and gives a 3 percent raise for teachers. S

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