After weeks of pressure, McDonnell releases budget cut proposals
After weeks of pressure from legislators, advocates and reporters, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) today publicly announced his list of $2.3 billion in recommended budget cuts, just four days before the House and Senate release their own versions of the state budget.
As we reported last night, McDonnell is proposing deep cuts to core services in K-12 education and health and human services.
The K-12 reductions would loosen the state's basic educational standards while reducing funds for support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches 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. Other proposed cuts include five unpaid days off annually for state workers, closing five state parks, including Mason Neck in Fairfax County, and slashing programs that aid the homeless and prevent teen pregnancies.
Here is McDonnnell's full list of proposed cuts.
McDonnell also announced a new revenue forecast that would likely change the state's budget shortfall over the next two years from $4.2 billion to $4 billion.
The governor told reporters at a news conference on Capitol Square today that he decided to release his proposals because the information has started to leak out, but not because he was pressured.
"I chose weeks ago the process of collaboration over dictation,'' he said. "There were probably an equal number of people who said, 'Send the budget amendments down. Don't send the budget amendments down'....Many of the discussions I've had with the General Assembly and budget leaders have begun to come out and be discussed in public and so I felt today that I would make sure all the public and all the legislators knew what I've discussing over the last four weeks with the General Assembly."
McDonnell met with legislators this morning, and sent a letter to them announce the new revenue forecast. Finance Secretary Ric Brown said the projection was based on recent improvements in collections of the state corporation tax and the levy paid to record real estate deeds, wills, lawsuits and contracts.
The governor's proposed budget cuts, made public today, differ slightly from lists circulated over the last couple weeks to legislators. For example, senators were told the governor is recommending phasing out all public broadcasting support over four years, but that is not listed in the document released today.
"All the cuts gave me heartburn,'' McDonnell said. "All of them were difficult because I know that behind every cut there is a Virginian -- somebody in this room or somebody out of the 7.8 million people we have -- that might be affected by that."
Reponse to the proposed reductions was swift.
"We're really throwing kids in the poorest districts under the bus,'' said Robley S. Jones, director of government affairs for the Virginia Education Association, which represents teachers. ''Honestly, I don't know what school systems like Lee and Petersburg are going to do."
"Governor McDonnell, state legislators, and other officials must be aware that cutting funding to community mental health services, reducing Medicaid provider reimbursement rates, and eliminating acute inpatient beds puts extraordinary pressure on an already overburdened system," said Mira Signer, executive director of NAMI Virginia. "Individuals with serious mental illness need to be able to access treatment and services at the time when they go looking for them; if they aren't available due to waiting lists or too few providers, there are consequences."
"Virginia ranks 48th among the states for Medicaid spending per capita and 45th in Medicaid spending as a share of the state budget," says Laurens Sartoris, president of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. "Virginia's Medicaid program already is extraordinarily lean. There comes a point when cuts of this magnitude will hurt all Virginians and cause long-term damage to Virginia's health care delivery system."
February 17, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate
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