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McDonnell's recommends $2.1 billion in budget cuts to legislators behind closed doors

Anita Kumar

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has privately recommended to legislators that the state cut $730 million from K-12 education and $300 million from health programs, as well as change the state retirement system and require 10 days of furloughs for state employees, all to help offset a $2.2 billion budget shortfall over two years, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The K-12 reductions would loosen the state's basic educational standards while reducing funds for support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches and teachers who serve as club sponsors and department chairmen, and health insurance for teachers.

The health cuts would reduce mental-health treatment beds by 232, take 5 percent in funds from community service boards that offer substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, and freeze enrollment for a program that provides insurance to low-income children.

The governor is also recommending millions of dollars in trims to public libraries, shuttering some state parks and phasing out all public broadcasting support over four years.

Read our entire story today on McDonnell's nearly $2.1 billion in proposed cuts.

McDonnell will hold a news conference this morning on Capitol Square in Richmond to discuss the budget and updated revenue projections. His Secretary of Finance Ric Brown released a report late yesterday showing state revenue collections dropping by 6.5 percent in January.

McDonnell has refused for weeks to release his proposals publicly, despite repeated requests from lawmakers and advocates. Instead, he and his staff have been sharing recommendations with small groups of legislators behind closed doors -- a departure from the way governors have conveyed their budget priorities in Virginia for decades.

We've told you about some of McDonnell's recommendations over the last week or two. Today we want to tell you about some more.

A number of lawmakers and legislative staffers briefed on the proposals provided information about them to The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because McDonnell has not released the specifics publicly.

McDonnell and Brown outlined nearly $2.1 billion in budget cuts to key legislators: $730 million in K-12 education; $300 million in health and human resources; $550 million in changes in the state retirement system, including some that could reduce retirement benefits for new state and local employees; and $180 million in 10 days of furloughs. McDonnell and Brown also suggested tens of millions of dollars in other cuts to higher education, public safety and aid to localities.

The list of recommendations includes dozens of recommendations, big and small, in all aspects of state goverment. Here's a sampling:

In K-12 education, cuts are recommended for support staff ($225 million) and supplemental salaries ($130 million) and school bus replacement would be extended to 15 years ($20 million).

In higher education, which has already taken a huge hit in the recent years, McDonnell calls for a 50 percent cut in administrative costs to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia ($1.5 million) and five percent cuts to Higher Education Centers. Public libraries would see 5 percent reductions and arts grants would be slashed 10 percent.

Public safety trims would be minimal mostly because McDonnell and legislators want to restore many of the cuts former governor Tim Kaine (D) recommended in his final two-year budget, But McDonnell is suggesting eliminating one of three state-operated halfway houses ($800,000) and cutting aid to local detention homes by five percent ($5 million).

Suggestions also include eliminating homeless programs ($6 million), cutting back on mortage assistance programs ($300,000) and a slew of health and human resources cuts, including reducing Medicaid eligibility for those in long-term care, such as nursing homes, which could affect 2,000 Virginians ($53 million).

By Anita Kumar  |  February 17, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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Where did you find the information about Public Broadcasting (fourth paragraph)?

Posted by: lrcelistan | February 17, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

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