|McDonnell is proposing that public schools be cut an additional $350 million in 2010 and another $350 million in 2011. The only way he can accomplish cuts that deep is to water down the Standards of Quality. The actual changes in the SOQ necessary to save that amount will come from the state Board of Education.
This proposed cut is from the same guy who told the General Assembly in his first speech to them that he wanted to increase the percentage of school funds dedicated to instruction to 65%. He just sidestepped around the fact that he wanted 65% of a much smaller pie to go to instruction.
Remember all that talk about increasing the number of charter schools? Remember a few days ago when McDonnell got Doug Wilder to stand next to him in a press conference and declared that charter schools were going to be his number one education goal. He sidestepped at that time around the fact that he now says he can't introduce anything related to charter schools to the legislature this year.
So, his "first priority" on education is joining his "12 f**king funding proposals" for transportation on the back burner, where it's getting mighty crowded.
It's not just education that is set to be savaged by Mickey D. The bulk of his budget cuts will also affect health care, mental health care...anything that was designed to help the "least among us."
McDonnell reportedly wants to cut the appropriation for local Community Service Boards, which offers substance abuse and mental health programs, by $48 million more than former Gov. Tim Kaine had proposed.
It wasn't so long ago that the General Assembly responded to the massacre at Virginia Tech by declaring how important mental health services are and proceeded to give them more resources. Now, they will receive less money than before that tragedy.
McDonnell also wants to cut $15 million each year of the budget from the state's FAMIS health program, which provides insurance to low-income children and to pregnant mothers. To achieve the cuts, enrollment in FAMIS would be frozen, thus denying that program to any more children or pregnant women from families with an annual income of $30,000 to $44,000. (Those are gross income limits, not what a family actually sees in a paycheck.)
Most of us know FAMIS as CHIP, or Children's Health Insurance Program. Because FAMIS is a federal-state matching program, if Virginia cuts $30 million over the biennium, it will lose $60 million in matching funds, thus gutting the program by $90 million.
The Washington Post interviewed Jill Hankin, a staff attorney with the Poverty Law Center, on the impact of the possible FAMIS cut: "A freeze means we're closing the door on uninsured kids who need who need health care...For the state to turn its back on low-income pregnant mothers and kids is horrifying."
Are you beginning to understand why McDonnell wants to quietly whisper his draconian cuts to Virginia's safety net in the ears of the General Assembly members, while sidestepping any way for the rest of us to know the ideas came from him?
What's my alternative to making such deep cuts in the safety net? The state of Virginia needs to have some increase in income. After all, the budget has already been cut to the bone before this round. Gov. Kaine understood that fact. McDonnell doesn't.
We could start by rescinding the elimination of the state inheritance tax. Then, let's enact the one-percent increase in the income tax proposed by former Gov. Kaine. Because a portion of the income from that increase would be used to require localities to eliminate the car tax completely, the average Virginian actually would not see a net tax increase. In other words, those most able to pay more would be asked to pay a bit more.
Leadership is shown by making difficult decisions and taking the consequences for them, not hiding behind others.