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Get Ready for the Worst

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 11:24:03 AM EST

The draconian cuts in the budget that are going to be made in Richmond are slowly taking shape, even as the Democrats in the Senate can't agree on the path they will follow in writing their version of the biennial budget.

"Do we, as Democrats, believe in core government services? Do we believe it or not?" Sen.  Ed Houck (D-Spotsylvania) said recently.

On the other side is Senate Finance Chairman Charles Colgan (D-Prince William), who absolutely will not support former Gov. Kaine's proposal to stop subsidizing a reduction in the local car tax and instead raise the state income tax by one percent and give localities enough money to eliminate the car tax altogether.

Meanwhile, over in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and at the Governor's Mansion, there is a single budget philosophy: cut, cut, cut, especially programs that affect the "little people."

The people who are being targeted for the worst of the budget cuts are children in public schools, the poor on Medicaid, those in need of mental health services, state and local employees, and local government services partially supported by the state.

Elaine in Roanoke :: Get Ready for the Worst
Some things being tossed around regarding future retirement benefits of those covered by the  Virginia Retirement System (VRS) won't help in the short run but will penalyze state employees and teachers who will be hired after July 1.

In  order to save a mere $74 million of the estimated $4.2 billion budget shortfall, the McDonnell administration and the Republicans in Richmond are proposing ending the 5 percent the state pays into VRS. New-hire employees will pay that instead, effectively lowering their salaries by a like amount. It won't take long for local school boards that took over the employee payment in the 1980's to follow suit.

Other amounts - with no detail - being bandied about by the McDonnell administration sound like a hit list for the Virginians least able to afford it:

Some state mandates for curriculum and staffing in K-12 public schools may be lowered, so that localities and the state won't have to provide those things. I personally look for the greatest hits to be to assistant principals, school nurses, guidance counselors, etc., all those "extras" schools supposedly have.

Numbers attached to the general categories of cuts the McDonnell administration is considering include $700 million additional cuts from education during the next two years, $300 million from from health and human resources, and $700 million from employee compensation, including requiring unpaid furlough time.

That takes them $1.7 billion closer to erasing the $2.2 billion hole left by not allowing Kaine's one-percent increase in the state income tax to go into effect.

In other words, in an attempt to avoid having everyone share in the pain of further budget cuts through an increase in the income tax rate, the McDonnell administration wants to concentrate the pain among children, the sick and infirm, and those who work in public service jobs.

What may be the worst effects of the cuts?

Elderly nursing home patients could have Medicaid benefits reduced or eliminated. Already in the works is a plan to not allow people in need to fill slots for certain Medicaid services as positions open up - this in a state that already is 47th in the stinginess of its Medicaid benefits.  

Sheriff's departments face budget cuts so deep that some rural areas could be looking at not having 24-hour policing. The state police already has a freeze in hiring in place.

Expect to see class size increase dramatically in the schools that have the least local resources available in terms of property taxes. Perhaps we could call that the McDonnell "Leave the Poor Children Behind" policy.

For years, both Republicans and Democrats in Richmond followed a bipartisan tax cutting policy that first began Washington: cut taxes but don't say where you will cut government services. Don't even cut government services. Just borrow the money.

That is unconscionable.

How stupid and irresponsible would we be if we decided to cut our salaries by taking a job that paid less but not lower our standard of living in order to balance the family budget? Just pull out the old credit card.

Politicians have been currying favor with voters for decades - especially those voters with the highest incomes - by saying we can have tax cuts with no service cuts. Ronald Reagan and the "supplysiders" brought that fallacious philosophy to Washington. Jim Gilmore of "no car tax" fame inflicted the same thing on Virginia. At some point we hit a wall.

Welcome to the "Great Recession" wall.

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in the meantime, they are forging ahead with very important legislation. Oh. My. God. This is insane.

RICHMOND, FEB. 9 -- The House of Delegates is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill that would protect Virginians from attempts by employers or insurance companies to implant microchips in their bodies against their will.
But wait until to hear why some Delegates are supporting the measure:

It might also save humanity from the antichrist, some supporters think.

Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), the bill's sponsor, said that privacy issues are the chief concern behind his attempt to criminalize the involuntary implantation of microchips. But he also said he shared concerns that the devices could someday be used as the "mark of the beast" described in the Book of Revelation.
"My understanding -- I'm not a theologian -- but there's a prophecy in the Bible that says you'll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times," Cole said. "Some people think these computer chips might be that mark."  

This is EXTREMELY important and well worth spending hours debating, meanwhile McDonnell is satisfied with simply "guiding" the Republicans in the legislature rather than actually getting his hands dirty and amending Kaine's budget.  Wouldn't want to be held responsible for any of the negative effects.

Sorry for the snark, but this state employee is tired of bearing the burden of budget balancing for the Commonwealth.  Two years without a raise, none to look forward to anytime soon, and now they want to increase payments to VRS AND add furloughs?  When an increase of one measly percent on income taxes would cover it all?  For me, that's less than an hour's worth of pay per paycheck.

[ Parent ]
The Biggest Losers
The biggest losers will be the new hires starting July 1. As I understand what they are throwing around in Richmond, people who are state employees now wouldn't get what amounts to a 5% pay cut; however, unpaid furloughs might have the same result for employees now.

Of course, if they change the time used for calculating VRS retirement pay and change the puny cost-of-living raises given now, you folks will get hit with that.

This is obviously an attempt to use a budget crisis to cut state retirement, something the conservative Republicans in Richmond have wanted to do for a long time.

Meanwhile, men who are supposedly rational are kissing the behinds of the irrationally "religious" with bills outlawing microchip implants!! Next we'll have to declare the number 666 illegal in Virginia and begin to be on the outlook for witches in our midst.  

[ Parent ]
Witches already present
just not yet accounted for. Doest thee doubt the prevelance of witches?

[ Parent ]
This bizarre legislation
got an honorable mention in today's (Feb 13) NYT. Thank you, Gail Collins, for putting Virginia on the crazy map :)

[ Parent ]
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