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Virginia to cut General Assembly expenses, Howell boasts

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia will soon rank 46th among all 50 states in per capita spending on its legislature, down from 40th in the country in 2003.

That's according to a release from House Speaker Bill Howell's today, touting new spending cuts at the General Assembly. The cuts result in $1 million in new savings on top of $1.1 million in cuts to legislative expenses adopted earlier this year.

The bulk of new savings come from paying legislative staff a per diem of $135 during the legislative session, to cover expenses while they are living and working in Richmond and away from their homes in other parts of the state. That's instead of the $191 authorized by the IRS for such expenses.

The House also trimmed its orientation back from 2.5 days to just 1, allowing for savings on hotel and meals for new delegates. A full-time House employee position has been eliminated, as well as two session employees and 10 intern slots. The House will save on printing costs and has reorganized its meeting schedule when the legislature is not in session to allow lawmakers to reduce their trips to Richmond.

The speaker's release also notes that salaries for the part-time delegates has been unchanged since 1991, when the House agreed to cut delegates' own pay from $18,000 a year to its current $17,640. And six House clerk jobs have been eliminated since Howell took over in 2003.

"I have long made it a priority to aggressively reform House operations and reduce costs wherever possible," Howell said in the statement. "While the new Governor and General Assembly will be facing numerous difficult budget-balancing decisions in the upcoming 2010 session, I am confident that an unbiased accounting of the record shows that the House of Delegates has done -- and is continuing to do - its part to identify legislative branch savings, return those taxpayer dollars to the General Fund, and contribute to balancing the state budget."

Gov. Tim M. Kaine (D) will release a proposed budget Friday designed to close an estimated $3.5 billion budget shortfall over the next two years.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 16, 2009; 2:17 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Hey Roz, do a quick check with Bruce Jamerson to see what last year's Legislative Assistants were given in per diem. Let me save you the time: $135. That's what it's been for at least the past 5 YEARS.

Note to the Speaker: it's not a SAVINGS if you never intended to authorize or change it in the first place. What a bunch of nonsense.

Come on Roz, maybe a little fact checking before you accept the Speaker's press release at face vale, if that's not too much to ask. When you say, "The bulk of new savings come from paying legislative staff a per diem of $135 during the legislative session" you're totally misleading people. This isn't a NEW savings in any sense of the word; the budget for LAs will be the EXACT SAME this year as it was in the past several years, at least two budget cycles. Come on!

Posted by: NovaGuy08 | December 17, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

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