|K-12 Education: Cuts of $730 million over two years. Hit hardest will be support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches and club sponsors, and health insurance for teachers. The Standards of Quality will also be loosened. While the legislature won't mention teaching positions lost, believe me, there is no way to make those cuts on the local level without cutting deeply into instructional positions.
Health Care: $300 million in cuts over two years. Mental-health treatment beds will drop by 232. Community service boards that offer substance abuse and mental health treatment programs will lose 5% of their funding. Worst of all in a time of high unemployment will be a freeze on the enrollment of low-income children and pregnant woman into the FAMIS program, also known as called SCHIP.
Another proposal is to reduce Medicaid eligibility for those in long-term care, such as nursing homes. That proposal could adversely affect 2,000 Virginians.
These cuts in the paltry benefits Virginia gives to people who either cannot afford or cannot qualify for health insurance any other way comes at a time when the Republicans in the state are also railing against President Obama's attempts give more Americans health insurance.
Rep. Alan Grayson's (D-FL) concise description of Republican health care plans is becoming quite apt for Virginia: "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."
The Post reported that Robert Vaughn, staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, has said McDonnell also suggested reducing eligibility for all Medicaid programs, as well. Virginia already has some of the toughest eligibility requirements and the stingiest payments in the nation, but I guess that's not enough for Gov. Wimpy.
State Employees: All employees will be required to take 10 days furlough without pay. They also will have to pick up the 5% payment into the Virginia Retirement System presently paid by the state.
Virginia Retirement System: $550 million in budget cuts for the state retirement system. Part of that decline will come from reduced retirement benefits for new state and local employees, creating a two-tier system. (That should guarantee morale problems.)
Other cuts: Public libraries will lose millions of dollars in funding. Some state parks will be closed. All state money for public broadcasting will be phased out over four years.
These cuts are trickling out of back room meetings with the governor's staff and a handful of legislators. McDonnell, aka Gov. Wimpy, evidently is afraid to follow the leadership model of all other governors and submit his recommendations in the form of amendments to the final Kaine budget.
"I personally think it's a dereliction of duty for a governor not to come forward and inform the public on what cuts need to be made,'' said Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), a member of the Senate Finance Committee. "It's just sneaky."
"Usually by this time, the public would have been deeply involved in the debate," said Robley S. Jones, director of government affairs for the Virginia Education Association, which represents teachers. "The governor has chosen not to do that. I'm not sure democracy is well served."
Come on, Rob. Drop that "I'm not sure." Why not say, "This is undemocratic"? Don't be afraid of straight talk.
These revelations are coming out as the deadline for the House of Delegates and the State Senate to pass their budgets nears. Both houses have to complete their budgets by Sunday.
Gov. Wimpy and the GOPers in the legislature have made it impossible for the advocates for the poor, the sick, and the weak to mount any effort to salvage some of the benefits that are necessary for those Virginians.
So, I am angry. I am angry for the children, for the sick, for those who most need the rest of us. A refusal to equally share the burden of this state budget shortfall means that they have to shoulder the entire load themselves - they and the public servants who try to meet their needs. That is not only unfair. It is shameful.
"Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?" Then he will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me." - Matthew 25: 44-45