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Va. legislative black caucus concerned about state budget

Anita Kumar

The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus wrote a letter today to the budget negotiators expressing concerns about both the House and Senate versions of the budget.

In his letter, Del. Kenny Alexander (D-Norfolk) said he was worried that "the plight faced by those who may bear a disproportionate burden of the cuts and adjustments could turn from difficult to harrowing in a matter of days."

Alexander wrote that the House and Senate budgets will lead fiscally stressed localities to make drastic cuts of their own and possibly raise taxes and increase fees on households and businesses that are already struggling. He said cuts "will impede the progress we have made and put families and children at risk."

Specifically he cited at-risk student funding, K-12 education and the FAMIS state health insurance program for low-income children and pregnant mothers. Read his full letter below.

Meanwhile, budget conferees met for the second time in as many days today, though they resolved few differences.

The House offered a proposal for what fees and revenues they would be willing to accept. The Senate will respond Sunday afternoon when the two sides meet again.

Dear Senator Charles J. Colgan, Sr. and Delegate Lacy E. Putney:

On behalf of the Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, I wish to express concerns regarding the adopted House and Senate amendments to the FY 2010-12 budget. The Caucus supports the passage of a budget that is fiscally sound and just as sensitive to economically stressed individuals, families and localities. The task of closing a historic deficit of $4.2 billion is immense. However, the plight faced by those who may bear a disproportionate burden of the cuts and adjustments could turn from difficult to harrowing in a matter of days.

The leadership of the General Assembly has chosen an approach that relies overwhelmingly on cuts to balance the budget. In order to mitigate these cuts, the already fiscally stressed localities that we represent will either have to make drastic cuts of their own and/or raise taxes and increase fees on households and businesses that are struggling as well. Recognize that Virginia has come a long way in providing services that have ushered many towards success, opportunity and self sufficiency. Please know, that cuts to the following will imperial the progress we have made and put families and children at risk.

At-Risk Student Funding - We oppose the block grant approach to at-risk student funding proposed in the House budget. Cutting at-risk student funding by $26 million and then distributing the funding based on average daily membership will have an adverse impact on the localities we represent. Our localities require these resources in achieving accreditation, improving graduation rates, and meeting SOL standards.

Funding for K-12 Education - Cuts to education are projected to eradicate over 30,000 teaching positions. New teachers will receive less in benefits from VRS, making our schools less competitive in the national marketplace for educators. Coupled with the considerable cuts to K-12 education outlined in both budgets, we have sent a disappointing signal to Virginians regarding our commitment to public education. Though not perfect, the Senate budget provides close to $360 million more than the House budget for FY2011."

FAMIS - In restricting eligibility requirements for the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan (FAMIS) it has been stated that the Commonwealth will realize $37.5 million in savings. However, the impact of this adjustment will amount to a cut of $100 million in health care for low-income women and children. We strongly urge you to reconsider. Virginia stands to lose $70 million in federal matching funds that provide the 65% of the costs for this critical program. By readjusting the qualifying level of a family's gross income downward from less than 200% of the federal poverty level to 175%, Virginia will be among the top three most restrictive states in providing this critical and proven assistance to economically stressed families.

Following through with these cuts and readjustments at their proposed level will have a severe impact on Virginia and it will take many families and localities a generation to recover. Cutting these vital resources in inner city and rural communities will weaken our workforce, compound the effects of poverty, and limit the opportunities for our most vulnerable. Your consideration of our concerns will be greatly appreciated. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely

Del. Kenneth C. Alexander
Chairman - Virginia Legislative Black Caucus

By Anita Kumar  |  March 5, 2010; 5:06 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , State Senate  
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Comments

"Alexander wrote that the House and Senate budgets will lead fiscally stressed localities to make drastic cuts of their own and possibly raise taxes and increase fees on households and businesses that are already struggling."

Alexander obviously doesn't get out much. high taxes crush small businesses and chase away jobs.

Posted by: millionea7 | March 8, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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