|The Democrats at the meeting said that McDonnell repeated his intentions to give them his suggestions on where the budget should be cut in the "not terribly distant future." He did not, however, commit to sending down his ideas as formal amendments to the budget nor to suggesting cuts that would total the full shortfall.
If McDonnell is not going to send down formal budget amendments, if he refuses to quickly propose cuts that will fill the budget hole for the upcoming biennium, just what will his "suggestions...in the not terribly distant future" amount to?
Virginia is a state where the governor submits budgets and the legislature works from there. Yes, Gov. Kaine sent the budget that is before the General Assembly now, but the usual practice is for the next governor to make formal changes.
So, here's where we are. McDonnell has blown an additional $2 billion hole in the budget by declaring that the one percent increase in the state's income tax Kaine proposed is DOA, but he will not commit to explaining exactly how he will fill that gap.
So far, all he has done is propose things that will cost more money: opening rest stops on I-81, doubling the governor's opportunity fund, etc.
This week on the floor of the State Senate, Democratic Sen. Ed Houck implored McDonnell to help legislators find $2 billion in budget cuts.
"What's the plan? What is our governor's plan to address the second $2 billion in cuts?" Houck said. "What is the plan to address the second two? Tell us!"
At the first monthly radio show McDonnell has had at WRVA in Richmond, McDonnell said, "To get to $2 billion, there is no easy way. There is[sic] going to have to be reductions in areas like health care and education and changes in the way we run VRS [Virginia Retirement System], and then I have a number of other creative proposals that will save money."
O.K. McDonnell says he has a number of "other creative proposals that will save money." I repeat the request of Sen. Houck. "What's the plan? Tell us." If you have those creative proposals, why not share them with the leaders of the legislature?
I can't see why he says he needs more time to figure them out. Either he knows what he is doing or he doesn't.
In the Post report on McDonnell's meeting with Democrats, the only specifics he gave them related to his plan for more charter schools in Virginia. Under the legislation he will propose, the state board of education would retain the ability to review and approve charter school applications; however, McDonnell wants to add a layer of bureaucracy, a new independent body to review the applications of schools rejected by the state board. (Hardly a way to save money by a supposedly "small-government" Republican.)
Give me a break. We don't elect a governor to give legislators "suggestions," nor to refuse to lead the state on the budget. Virginia has a strong governor model left over from the old Harry Byrd days. My advice to Gov. McDonnell is, "Don't run for an office that requires leadership if you can't lead."
Unless he quickly shows another side to his "leadership," I am forced to conclude that Bob McDonnell is a nice, little, photogenic fellow, who is a Reaganite and a Robertsonian. Since he buys into a political philosophy that looks upon government as bad and in need of being starved of revenue, he never will have any "creative" solutions to Virginia's problems, short of cutting vital public services and hurting the "least among us."