By Connie Morrrison —
Funding for a new airport hangar in Melfa is not dead yet.
Del. Rob Bloxom introduced the $2 million amendment to the state biennial budget 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 hangar in his Oct. 30 column printed in the 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 proposed amendments of his own. Among them were amendments to strike the hangar and the parkway projects, to add $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 a Nimmo Parkway project in Virginia Beach “do not warrant special treatment,” he proposed eliminating the two projects and instead send them 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.
“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” said Lewis. “It’s not over yet.”
The governor possesses line-item veto authority and could still strike the hangar funding.
“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 deadline for the governor to act is Dec. 9, 11:59 p.m.