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After weeks of pressure, McDonnell releases budget cut proposals

Anita Kumar

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."

By Anita Kumar  |  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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His arm had to be twisted to make him cough it up. He has already forgotten who he works for.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 17, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Love the melodrama, "After weeks of pressure from...". The guy has only been in office for a month!

Posted by: 0460 | February 17, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Well done, golly gee you reduced the next two years budget deficit from 4.2 billion to 4 billion.

Where is the magic bullet you promised during the election? You know, the one where you promised to balance the budget in two years "without" any tax increases :)

Oh, and good job furloughing state employees for a week without pay. I am sure they are gonna love that come next election.

Yeah, thought so.

Posted by: Nosh1 | February 17, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

We Virginia voters got what we overwhelmingly voted for last November so quit whining and complaining!

Welcome to conservative governance! Toss the poor, the weak, and the elderly on the street, short change public education and lavish tax cuts on the wealthy and business.

How do like them Christian family values!

Posted by: montana123 | February 17, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

@nosh1, the virginia governor is limited to a single term... so he can't be re-elected

Posted by: lermanzo | February 17, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I give the Governor credit for making tough decisions- someone has to make the cuts. Where is all the extra money, which some of you believe grows on trees, going to come from? Americans are struggling enough as it is- raising taxes is not the answer. In fact, I can't begin to understand where I'm going to find the money necessary to cover my tax bill. Everyone has to work with tighter budgets--families, college students, and so on. It shouldn't be any different for government agencies.

This isn't about Christian values either. With all do respect, business grows the economy. Business creates job and attracts revenue--the governor should focus on providing essential services to the most vulnerable citizens in the commonwealth while doing everything possible to attract business and spur job creation.

To be honest, to commonwealth wasn't left in the best of shape by his predecessor- we should all be hopeful that the fiscal situations across the country begin to improve. But for now, everyone should tighten belts- including State entities.

Posted by: rgonzo | February 17, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Second rgonzo. Cuts are painful, but the state can't just make money grow on trees.

Any cuts to state aid are going to fall on those most heavily dependent on state aid.

My biggest complaint is that, looking at the actual document, a number of the proposed "cuts" appear to be simple delay tactics. Maybe I'm wrong, but deferring obligations instead of eliminating them is not a cut.

Posted by: JoeSchmoe06 | February 17, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, the Virginians knee jerk election will hurt many and Mr McDonnell will take us all back to the Eisenhower era. It's always fascinating to me how many people buy into style over substance. As for these cuts of his, it certainly makes sense to cut education as we certainly don't want too many educated people in the commonwealth and all of those folks like children that have no health insurance, perhaps the Governor can hold prayer meetings to heal the sick and give comfort to the poor not to mention the crumbling state infrastructure. I don't think he has either the intelligence or the will to do what's right and let's not forget the gun lobby who wants patrons to carry guns into restaurants, gotta have those for sure.
Welcome to the dumbing down of Virginia and it serves everyone right this fool was elected.

Posted by: purveyors | February 17, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

While it's clear the Commonwealth spends a good portion of its budget on Education and Health and Human Services, it seems to me that deeper cuts into transportation, and the Governor's adminstration should also be on the table. I would rather take care of our poor and our students rather than paving a new road or hiring more staffers for Richmond!

A hard reality is that our Commonwealth needs these education and health and human services. With the tax revenue being reduced by the recession, while we can make cuts, we also have to be mindful of raising some taxes to find middle ground. That's just fiscal common sense.

Posted by: jonmarcy | February 17, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Yet, not a penny cut from programs for illegal aliens and their illegitmate anchor babies. Famis still thrives, stealing money from SCHIP (for needy children) to ensure pregnant illegal alien women get better pre- and post-natal care than most citizens.

Not a whisper about E-Verify to ensure jobs created from stimulus money and via normal growth are given to American Citizens - who will generate revenue for the Commonwealth.

His .2B budget cuts are a pittance compared to tax dollars spent on programs for illegal aliens.

It just goes to show - it doesn't matter if you're a democrat or republican, they are all liars and thieves.

Posted by: asmith1 | February 17, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Nothing surprising here. The funny thing is he would have argued to cut these things even if the economy were thriving! Republicans get pleasure from these things. You got what ya wanted VA. Enjoy those meth heads in your neighborhoods who will no doubt spend lots of quality time with their kids instead of their habits. Will those children (who are miracles, and precious children of God yadda yadda) get the care they need? Who cares!?

Anyway Virginians: Business isn't just grown because you cut some thousands in taxes from this and that business. Business is the result of ideas. Republicans and republican governing doesn't breed ideas. It breeds hate and narrow minds. You want alternative energy business? Scientists to flood the state? Too bad, your governor things climate change is a hoax.

Posted by: FiatBooks | February 17, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I have to roll with montana123. Virginians wanted a Reagan-ish type of leader and they got a mighty fine knock-off. They'll have no one to blame but themselves when their kids get turned away from employment at Wal-Mart & have to drop out of community college because it's too challenging.

Posted by: mmurphy6 | February 17, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

People in Northern Virginia complain that they pay the taxes for the rest of the state, and their school budgets don't get back what their citizens pay in.

Many on this blog say that these educational cuts are terrible, etc etc etc -- but it's not affecting any of the districts around here.

Northern Virginians don't really care. Sorry.

Posted by: mikecapitolhill | February 17, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Typical Republican. Cut education first. What's next? Police and fire probably.

Right-wing idiots never study history. Higher education levels translate to higher income levels which translate to breaking poverty which translates to breaking a recession. But instead McDonnell opts to send more badly educated kids into badly paid jobs and poverty...

Never mind. I see what he is up to. Since the American public is fed up with conservative business men employing cheap labor in the form of illegal immigrants he must now create a homegrown pauper class willing to take the sub-standard wage jobs without benefits or escape. That illegal workforce scheme worked so well in the 1980s for Reagan to drive a false economic growth and unemployed American students. Very shrewd, Mr. Governor. The Big Business Club will love you for it.

I think a recall election is in order.

Posted by: BigTrees | February 17, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Virginians, you deserve this. You voted for a Republican, whom you know this would happen. Grind the pain for the next four years and stop whining!

Posted by: BabuiBoomerang | February 17, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Did he make any cuts in government? Republicans always say they're for small government but never seem to be able to say which departments they'll get rid of. Where are his cuts in government employees?

Posted by: ATLGuy | February 18, 2010 2:05 AM | Report abuse

It's taken them half the General Assembly session to get their budget put together because the Governor's office is completely understaffed! Scores of offices remain empty and many Secretariats have almost no employees. So how in the world could they possibly get their priorities together when they can't even hire an administration?

Posted by: InsideVirginia | February 18, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

-no significant reform of Virginia's bankrupt 'defined benefit' pension system

-$88 million in bonuses

-increased funding for law enforcement and prisons

just another typical, toothless status quo budget.

the private sector is collapsing. Virginia's $4 billion deficit will be $8 billion before the end of his 4-year vacation in Richmond.

Posted by: millionea7 | February 18, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh Virginia... what have you done?

Posted by: zenetanar | February 18, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

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