Senator’s Resignation Could Push VA Closer to Passing Budget

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Phil Puckett Phil Puckett

UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting that Democratic negotiators agreed in a closed-door meeting Monday to pass a budget without expanding health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

Could the sudden resignation of a Democratic state senator budge the stalemate in Richmond? With the balance of power tipping now to the Republicans, it looks less likely that Medicaid expansion is going to happen.

Not only did Senator Phil Puckett's surprise resignation spring up ethical questions, but it also comes at a pivotal time. Virginia is closing in on the deadline to pass a budget, and the loss of a Democratic leader in Richmond changes the game.

Fellow Democrats say they still hold Puckett in high regard, but there was obvious disappointment over the timing.

"It's disappointing he chose this time to leave but he served for, I believe, 16 years with great distinction, and he was a good friend. I'm very disappointed," said 32nd District Senator Janet Howell (D).

Puckett represented Russell, Virginia. Legislators said at least one reason for his early departure had to do with his daughter. Because of nepotism rules, she could not earn a full appointment as a judge due to her father's position in the General Assembly.

Puckett's exit could push forward a budget finally going through as the June 30 deadline nears. Virginia's Senate will return to Richmond Thursday to continue working on the budget.

The Senate finance conferees met behind closed doors Monday afternoon. When the members came out, they confirmed they were reworking things and looking into very deep cuts to deal with a tremendous shortfall. If things progress, there would be a special election soon to fill state Puckett's open seat.

As the budget has been stuck in the Senate finance committee, members of the Senate are expected to potentially call a special work session later this week.