By Connie Morrison
Its future was in question after Gov. Ralph Northam asked for funding to be struck for a new $2 million hangar at the Accomack County Airport, but on Nov. 18 the governor signed the biennial budget amendments with the airport funding intact.
Del. Rob Bloxom introduced the funding request during the General Assembly special session.
“This long-fought battle was won with the help of Sen. (Lynwood) Lewis who helped me persuade the Senate conferees that this was a worthwhile project,” Bloxom said of the proposed funding for the hangar in the Oct. 30 Eastern Shore Post. “This should help attract customers from Salisbury to Melfa to be close to Wallops Island when testing or housing aircrafts or drones.”
Gov. Ralph Northam saw things differently, sending portions of the proposed budget amendment package back to the General Assembly, with some amendments of his own. Among them were striking the hangar and a Nimmo Parkway project in Virginia Beach, adding $1 million for an independent investigation into the culture at the Virginia Military Institute, and seven language-only amendments.
Writing in a Nov. 5 press release that the airport hangar and the parkway project “do not warrant special treatment.”
He said the two projects should go through the established transportation project review processes to “allow for full transparency by weighing different transportation projects against each other” instead of permitting the projects “to ‘jump the line.’”
Lewis appeared to find Northam’s argument specious. While acknowledging there is merit to public review processes, Lewis said, “We do stuff like that all the time. We pick meritorious projects, and we fund them.”
“The House accepted his taking out of the budget my amendment over my objections,” said Bloxom, meaning the House accepted the governor’s amendment to remove the airport hangar from the General Assembly’s budget amendment package.
But the Senate held the line. “The Senate didn’t accept (the governor’s) amendment so the funding is still in the budget,” Bloxom said.
“We’re in a good place,” Lewis told a Post reporter Nov. 12. “It’s not over yet.”
Acknowledging the governor held line-item veto power, he added, “I would like to think that given the close vote in the House and the significant vote defeating his action in the Senate that he would rethink his position on that,” Lewis said.
The funding was still in the budget amendment bill Northam signed into law Nov. 18.