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McDonnell Begs for Budget Time

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sat Jan 30, 2010 at 15:54:04 PM EST

According to reports in the Washington Post, Gov. Bob McDonnell held a meeting January 29 with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly. His budget "recommendations" during the meeting boil down to this: "I don't know how to cut an additional $2 billion, so give me some time and don't criticize me."

Perhaps McDonnell has spent the time since the early November election getting a severe case of "Potomac fever," plus preparing the staged, invitation-only show he put on as the GOP's spokesman for a response to President Obama's State of the Union message. Or, perhaps he is simply clueless.

I would think if a politician runs for the highest office in the Commonwealth on a platform that includes promising to veto any bills that would give the state additional revenue, plus assuring folks that he could magically solve the transportation problems of Virginia with his "12 f***ing funding mechanisms that are creative, that are entrepreneurial," he would be able to unveil his budget plans on the first day of the General Assembly session.

After all, Virginia only has sixty days in this legislative session with many extremely serious problems facing it. This session convened on January 13. So far, more than 1,600 bills have been submitted in the House of Delegates and almost 900 in the State Senate.

The Republicans in the House of Delegates have already decided not to work with former Gov. Kaine's budget. So, time's a'wasting, governor.

Elaine in Roanoke :: McDonnell Begs for Budget Time
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 " 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."

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He wants the Assembly
to solve his budget problems, specifically he wants the Democrats to come up with something to save his hide, and then be able to blame them for cuts and taxes required---- or he will, as advertized, cut schools and retirement, and blame it on the Democrats.  

Out of curiosity...
I didn't know that, as you say:

Virginia only has sixty days in this legislative session

but now I'm curious: How much do the legislators get paid (by me, among others) for their "short year"? I assume that they'll have another two-months-long session but, it still adds up to only 4 months -- barely more than a quarter of a year. Also... Do they get "bennies"--like health insurance-- for their efforts? Everyone else I know -- employed in "real jobs" -- is deprived of those "benefits" (I put it in quote marks because, for me, access to decent healthcare is a right, not a perk), if they work less than a 40hr week...

As for the substance of your post... I'm not surprised that McD is clueless; it was quite obvious, long ago, that (as an old saying goes) "he has more hair than wit". And, when you look closely, even the hair is kinda sparse.

Pay Is Minimal
The annual salary for senators is $18,000 per year and for delegates it is $17,640 per year.

They also get per diem pay for attending committee meetings, etc., when the General Assembly is out of session.

Unless there is a special session because the new governor can't seem to come up with his "creative proposals," there will just be the one 60-day session: January 13, 2010 to March 13, 2010.

Actually, the state budget is usually written by a small group of guys (white guys) who get together and finalize the whole thing - out of public view and input. (Welcome to democracy, Virginia-style.)  

[ Parent ]
It all depends on your POV,
doesn't it? 18K (or close to it) for two months worth of effort would sound princely to a lot of people I know. Some of the people who come to "my" Free Clinic, try to support a family on a lot less than that, and they work 12 months a year, not just a measly 2. And, if the senators and the delegates get their healthcare through their job, that's another few thou thrown in, that no other part-timers get.

[ Parent ]
If you live in a doublewide in Wise County
and find yourself elected to the state legislature, then yeah, it's a good paycheck.  If you're from NoVA and have to trade that for 2-3 months of regular work, you're losing a lot of money.  Not to mention all of the money and time they spend on elections, political events, that kind of thing.  

I don't know of any Delegate or Senator that makes money on being in elected office, certainly none from Fairfax/Arlington/Alexandria.  

[ Parent ]
They don't stop working...
the minute the GA session ends either - most go back to their "real" jobs and continue to represent us throughout the year.

[ Parent ]
The Plan
There is no Plan.  There never was any Plan.  It was all smoke and mirrors.  In their infinite wisdom, the voters of Virginia have selected a pig in a poke.  Good Luck!

So if the law requires the governor to submit a balanced budget...
...and he doesn't, what's our recourse?  Can we throw him in jail?


Kaine Did That
Our law requires the out-going governor to submit a 2-year budget, which the new governor usually changes with budget amendments. However, McD has no ideas...thus no amendments.

[ Parent ]
Kind of like deer-in-the-headlights...

Now is when the rubber meets the road - slogans and talking points no longer help.

[ Parent ]
Execullent Comparison!
All that "I'm a Leader" stuff from the campaign has disappeared with reality. This guy ran as a moderate but he's not moderate. What's a hypocrite to do?

Drop back and punt...or maybe he's praying with Pat Robertson that the General Assembly will save his butt.

[ Parent ]
This requires
multiple Letters to the Editors of various rags pointing out exactly this: McD has no plan, he lied, and so on. Get to work, folks. The take-down starts here and now if you want the Democrats to have a chance in future elections. Do it before the elephant gets his spin going.

[ Parent ]
Where Did All the Letters Go?
I remember being pleasantly surprised during the 2008 campaign by the number of LTE from our side. Unfortunately, with the win, those letters have dried up. Now, it seems in my paper (Roanoke Times), all the letters are from Tea Pots or from Repugs screaming about a "socialist" (translated = African-American) in the White House.

You are right. Times a 'wasting

[ Parent ]
Can only speak for myself
but, in '06 (Webb) and '08 (Obama) I was able to overcome both my laziness and my shyness and send fiery LTEs, because I really, truly and strongly believed in the candidate (fool me twice?). It wasn't difficult at all to craft letters supporting them. But the guy running for the House of Delegates, for my district, last fall? A sweet guy and hard working but... There wasn't a single issue he could be pinned to have a firm position on; he wanted to please everyone, which didn't please me at all. So, my heart wasn't in it and I couldn't think of what to say (other than "the incumbent stinks on ice"). He supplied "talking points" for us to write to the paper, but I don't "do" talking points; call me an "independent" :)

[ Parent ]
Letters to the editor
should be one of the tasks undertake not just by motivated supporters of a particular candidate, but a part of the business plan for every, and I do mean every, local Democratic Committee.

Given that there is no state-wide elected official who is a Democrat, there is no reliable messaging mouthpiece for Democratic values anywhere in Virginia. It is up to the local Committees to have a Communications or Messaging person who generates LTE's on policy matters as well as candidates, personalities, proposed legislation, and Republican boo-boos and other nonsense. The Communictions or Messaging person can draft varied texts for other Democrats to use as a template, the Chair does not have to do all work alone, and the local newspapers as well, of course, as the Richmond Times Dispatch, need to be bombarded regularly.

Stop whining about the constant Republican domination of the political narrative and their success at pushing their warped worldview. Do something for Democrats. Every little bit helps.

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