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BREAKING: The New Budget

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 18:52:55 PM EDT

Note: What follows is a press release from the Democratic Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.


~ House of Delegates move towards Senate's position on K-12 education, public safety and health and human resources ~

RICHMOND-The Virginia General Assembly adjourned "sine die" today following passage of a 2010-2012 biennial budget that reflects many priorities of the Senate Democratic Caucus. While unwelcomed cuts were required, the Democratic-led Senate prevented the devastating and job-eliminating cuts favored by the House of Delegates and Governor McDonnell. The final budget agreement includes approximately $30 billion in general fund spending. The agreement makes reductions in K-12 education, health and human resources, and aid to localities, but does so in ways that will minimize the impact on services and jobs.

           "As we worked to craft a Senate budget it became very clear that many previously unimaginable cuts would be necessary to produce a balanced budget. Since Governor McDonnell and the House of Delegates forced $4.2 billion in cuts, our priority was to make cuts in a way that would cause the least harm," said Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), chair of the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. "This budget process was about minimizing the damage and I think we have found the best way forward. We successfully reduced the devastating education cuts proposed by the House, found ways to keep cops on the street, and will preserve the healthcare safety net for vulnerable Virginians."

KathyinBlacksburg :: BREAKING: The New Budget

K-12 Public Education

Public education funding was the top priority of the Senate's Democratic-led budget negotiators. The final budget agreement makes $253 million in K-12 education cuts over the biennium, but prevents over $400 million in additional cuts that were desired by the House of Delegates. The Virginia Education Association estimates that this protected 12,118 jobs in our schools. The Senate also rejected the House of Delegates' plan to cripple at-risk programs by turning their funding into "block grants," and rejected the House's plan to eliminate funding for teachers' planning periods in middle and high schools.

Governor McDonnell's decision to unfreeze the Local Composite Index, the formula by which the state funds local schools, would have reduced funding to 97 Virginia school districts. The Senate fought to mitigate these reductions and the final budget will hold these districts harmless in 2011 and 50% harmless in 2012.

School districts asked for any cuts to be temporary and for flexibility to implement the required reductions. These elements were key components of the Senate's budget and are reflected in the final budget agreement.

The Virginia Commission for the Arts and public broadcasting faced elimination under some budget proposals, but the final budget moves towards the Senate position by imposing a 15% cut instead of total elimination.

Health and Human Resources

The Senate fought to preserve the healthcare safety net because of the unprecedented demand being placed upon providers. Accordingly, the final budget agreement incorporates the Senate's proposals to restore funding to the Virginia Health Care Foundation, community health centers and free clinics.

$130 million will maintain eligibility standards for Virginia's FAMIS program, allowing more low-income children and pregnant women to receive needed healthcare. The budget also includes $75 million to support home and community-based care for disabled Virginians.

The House of Delegates' budget used approximately $370 million in forthcoming federal Medicaid assistance for a variety of non-healthcare related purposes. The final budget reflects the Senate's proposal to use this Medicaid assistance to reimburse doctors who treat low-income patients.

Public Safety

The Senate fought to restore funding to protect the jobs of sheriffs' deputies and local police officers and this budget will keep 2,000 cops on the streets. Commonwealth's attorneys will also be given the resources they need to hold offenders accountable.

The budget dedicates $3.6 million to protect children from online predators. A proposal from Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) created the Internet Crimes Against Children fund which will support law enforcement task forces through a $10 fee on all misdemeanor and felony convictions.

Economic Development

The final budget agreement includes approximately $46 million for economic development programs as requested by Governor McDonnell. Included in the package is a $12.1 million increase for the Governor's Opportunity Fund, $5 million for an industrial mega-site, $7.2 million for promotion of international and domestic tourism and $6 million for development of overseas markets.

Employee Compensation and Benefits

Significant savings were achieved through $620 million in deferred payments to the Virginia Retirement System. At the insistence of Senate Democrats, the budget includes language to require repayment of this money beginning in 2013.

The budget includes a 3% bonus for state employees in 2011 if funds are available, and includes only one furlough day in 2010.

Other Budget Provisions of Note

·         $18.2 in nongeneral funds for agricultural best management practices to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

·         $167.8 million for locally-elected constitutional officers such as sheriffs, sheriff's deputies, commissioners of revenue and treasurers.

·         Increase oversight and streamlining of the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA).

·         Support for Rt. 58 in Southside Virginia and rail projects throughout the state.

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Way To Go, Senate
It's wonderful that the Democrats in the State Senate won the day with the budget. I just wish the electorate in Virginia would realize who looks out for them.

Unfortunately, too many of them listen to one of two things: either who the pastor says they should vote or the party that they think will keep their taxes as low as possible.

I don't know...
I think this budget has hit close to home for many people with the cuts to education.  More people than I'd realized were very aware of the situation between the House and the Senate.  

My neighbors here in Albemarle Co. are becoming more and more aware of who does what in Richmond.  The proposed cuts to school budgets have residents handing checks to the BOS to maintain current funding.

Personally, as the employee of a state-funded institution, I'm thrilled with the Senate, who maintained our funding in their initial budget and worked with the House to keep our funding intact for the biennium.  

[ Parent ]
"50% harmless" WTF?
" . . . the final budget will hold these districts harmless in 2011 and 50% harmless in 2012."

Sounds like we lost the LTE fight after all.  

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